competition · fitness · Guest Post

I am a curler: ‘A What?’, you ask?

I am a curler, and I’ve been curling since I was 12 years old. Some of you may know my sport. Others may be wondering about what it is or have a vague idea that it is an Olympic sport played on ice. In our household, when we ask Alexa what its favourite sport is, the reply is this; “Curling is my kind of game, it’s like chess on ice, if chess was played with tiny brooms”. As scary as it is that Alexa responds to us this way, we have often referred to the strategy involved in curling as, ‘chess on ice’. Good curlers think three to four moves in advance as they plan their play. Curling brooms aren’t that tiny though. They are about four feet-long, they are made of a light durable material with a fabric bottom that is used to brush the ice surface. Curling is a difficult game to explain, and I can’t do it justice here. If you want to learn more, check out the World Curling Federation’s 2-minute guide to curling.

            One member of the team directs the play, a second throws the curling stone, and the remaining two members of the team sweep. Photo credit: Robert Davies

Since 1988, when curling was a demonstration sport at the Calgary Olympics, it has been the brunt of jokes. Late-night television hosts and comedians seem to get a big kick out of it (see Ellen Degeneres, James Corden, Stephen Colbert, and Rick Mercer to name a few). It has made appearances on The Simpsons, The Little Mosque on the Prairie, and in several movies (e.g., Help) and songs (e.g., The Weakerthans’ Tournament of Hearts). In the best-case scenario, my sport is depicted as a novelty, but in most cases, it’s seen as a bit of a joke. Just last week, Saturday Night Live made fun of curling after NBC pulled their broadcasting of the International Olympic Qualifying tournament because it had a sex toy company as one of its leading sponsors. This is a story so interesting that it deserves its own post!

Am I offended by these jokes? Not really. Whenever curling gets mentioned or when I see images related to curling, I get excited because it means that my sport is no longer ignored. But it is odd to be an athlete who plays a sport that most folks either don’t know about or don’t take very seriously. Yet, the fitness, agility, strength, precision, and mental resilience required to curl should not be discounted. My family and I have taught a lot of athletes from other sports how to curl, and without exception they say “this is harder than it looks”. A few former NFL players decided to get a team together so that they could represent the United States at the Olympics in curling. That didn’t go so well.

Images of curling rocks used to identify physical distancing in Vancouver.

My Nova Scotian curling team recently competed at the Canadian Senior (aged 50 and over) Women’s Curling Championships. As an aside, the title sponsor for this event is a funeral concierge service, which makes most of us laugh. We played 12 games (each game lasts about 2 hours) over 6 days and finished with a bronze medal. Bronze medal games are tough but I’m proud that my team hung in there. On our way home, we arrived at the Toronto Airport and of all days, the escalator to get to our gate was broken. Ouch!, is all I have to say about that.

Team Nova Scotia after winning bronze at the Canadian Senior Women’s curling championship. Four very happy women! Photo Credit: Curling Canada

I am an old (er), competitive curler, and I love my sport. My relationship with curling has changed over the years but my identity as a curler has not. I’m becoming very interested in how athletes age within a sport and how this relates to their identity. But more on that another time.

8 thoughts on “I am a curler: ‘A What?’, you ask?

  1. Love this post. I’ve been curious to hear more about your curling experiences ever since you told me you were a curler, Julie. Congrats on the bronze and thanks for writing for the blog. I feel like this was just a teaser and look forward to your future posts, especially about aging athletes and identity, which is an issue Samantha and I are especially interested in. Thanks and welcome!

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  2. Great post. Thanks for sharing. Guelph seems to have an active feminist recreational curling community and I’ve been invited a few times. It’s on my list of things to try post knee surgery.

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  3. I come from a family of curlers (both parents, two sisters..and my sister and brother-in-law have a sheet named after them) but I have never played myself. The curling club used to be a few blocks from my house. I wandered in there once many years ago and someone immediately greeted me and sat with me to explain what was going on. (I pretended not to know, since he had such a good time explaining.) They were a great bunch! Around here, social distance is measured in cows, flamingos, ax handles, muskies, great blue heron wingspan, beer kegs, or milk jugs.

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  4. Julie, love the article and loved following your team during the Canadian Seniors. Looking forward to watching you next year as you ‘go for gold’!! Hugs to Scottie and Em as well as your curling family!

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