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Curling - History, Rules and Competitions



Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. It is related to bowls, boules and shuffleboard. Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called rocks, across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game may consist of ten or eight ends.

Curling was invented in medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings, 'Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap' and 'The Hunters in the Snow' (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depict Flemish peasants curling—Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf.
The word curling first appears in print in 1620 in Perth, Scotland, in the preface and the verses of a poem by Henry Adamson. The game was (and still is, in Scotland and Scottish-settled regions like southern New Zealand) also known as "the roaring game" because of the sound the stones make while traveling over the pebble (droplets of water applied to the playing surface). The verbal noun curling is formed from the Scots (and English) verb curl, which describes the motion of the stone.
The first world championship for curling was limited to men and was known as the Scotch Cup, held in Falkirk and Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959. The first world title was won by the Canadian team from Regina, Saskatchewan, skipped by Ernie Richardson. (The skip is the team member who calls the shots; see below.)

The purpose of the game is to score points by getting stones closer to the house center, or the "button", than the other team's stones. Players from either team alternate in taking shots from the far side of the sheet. An end is complete when all eight rocks from each team have been delivered, a total of sixteen stones. If the teams are tied at the end of the game, play continues for as many ends as may be required to break the tie. The winner is the team with the highest score after all ends have been completed (see Scoring below). A game may be conceded if considered unwinnable.
After the stone is delivered, its trajectory is still influenced by the two sweepers under instruction from the skip. Sweeping is done for two reasons: to reduce friction underneath the stone, and to decrease the amount of curl. The stones curl more as they slow down, so sweeping early in travel tends to increase distance as well as straighten the path, and sweeping after sideways motion is established can increase the sideways distance. When sweeping, pressure and speed of the brush head are key in slightly increasing the layer of moisture that builds up under the stone.

One of the basic strategy aspects of curling is knowing when to sweep. When the ice in front of the stone is swept, a stone will usually travel both farther and straighter. In some situations, one of the two alterations in path is not desirable. For example, a stone may have too much weight, but require sweeping to prevent curling into a guard. The team must decide which is better: getting by the guard but traveling too far, or hitting the guard.
The winner is the team having the highest number of accumulated points at the completion of ten ends. Points are scored at the conclusion of each of these ends as follows: when each team has thrown its eight stones, the team with the stone closest to the button wins that end; the winning team is then awarded one point for each of its own stones lying closer to the button than the opponent's closest stone.

Curling was included in the program of the inaugural Winter Olympic Games in 1924 in Chamonix. The results of that competition were not considered official by the International Olympic Committee until 2006. Curling was a demonstration sport at the 1932 Games, and then again after a lengthy absence in 1988 and 1992. The sport was finally added to the official program for the 1998 Nagano Games.
The World Curling Championships are the annual world championships for curling, organized by the World Curling Federation and contested by national championship teams. There are men's, women's and mixed doubles championships, as well as junior and senior championships for each gender. There is also a world championship for wheelchair curling. The men's championship started in 1959, while the women's started in 1979. The mixed doubles championship was started in 2008. Since 2005, the men's and women's championships have been held in different venues, with Canada hosting one of the two championships every year: the men's championship in odd years, and the women's championship in even years.



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