Category Archives: Curling

Olympic curling head to head

Curling may not be the most exciting sport to the uninitiated viewer, but the ice sport often brings close encounters at the Olympics. Ten teams will be taking part in both the men’s and women’s competition, and as usual they will play a round-robin tournament before heading into the playoffs.

In the men’s tournament, Canada has a positive record against all other nations in the field. An exception is technically speaking Russia, as the host nation is competing in the Olympic curling for the first time. Given their 10th place in the last Worlds, not too much should be expected of them on home ice. Great Britain – or Scotland to be more precise – and Sweden are the only nations to have taken part in all Olympic curling competitions, also competing in that almost forgotten 1924 tournament (which featured France as the third nation). Despite this long history, the Britons have never beaten Canada at an Olympics, while the Swedish curlers fear the Swiss, being down 0-6 in their matches.

Medal-wise, Canada, Norway and Switzerland are the most likely to be on the podium. Canada has won two silvers (1998, 2002) and two golds (2006, 2010), while Norway and Switzerland have won one gold each, and earned three medals in the last four Olympics. Scotland has done well at recent World Championships, though, and Sweden are the reigning World Champions.

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There is no nation with a positive record against all teams in the women’s competition. Both Canada and Sweden have a historically been better than six of their nine opponents. Canada has lost its only match against China, and is down 2-3 versus Switzerland. The Swedes, champions in 2006 and 2010, are 2-3 down against the Canadians, and the current host nation, Russia, is also ahead 2-1. New on the Olympic ice sheets will be South Korea, which surprisingly took 4th place in the 2012 Worlds. This brings the number of Asian nations competing to a record three.

Looking at the medal history, Canada has always been on the podium, but have only won the gold once, in 1998. Sweden appeared three times in the top three, placing third in Nagano besides their two titles. With two silvers in 2002 and 2006, the Swiss are the third most medalled nation in women’s curling. Recent World Championship medalists also include Scotland (2013 winners) and China.

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Curling Factsheets

Olympic History:          Curling is a sport played on ice in which players deliver a large stone towards a bulls-eye-type target.  The game is played by two teams of four players each.  One player delivers the stone by hand, while the other three players run in front of it, sweeping the ice to clear it and allow it a clear path to the target.  The ice on which the game is played is called a rink, and the same name is used for the teams.  Teams score points if their stones are closer to the center of the target, called the tee, than the opposing team’s stones.  The game is basically shuffleboard on ice.  The stones weigh approximately 42 lbs. (19 kg.) and are made of granite, with the best ones harvested from a granite formation on Ailsa Craig, a small uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland, owned by the 8th Marquess of Ailsa (the island is now for sale for $2.4 million [US]).

Curling was developed in Scotland as early as the 16th century, although some evidence exists that it developed in the Low Countries of Europe at about the same time.  The first known curling club was the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, formed in 1843 and originally called the Grand Caledonian Curling Club.  During the 19th century, curling spread to many nations of Europe, as well as the United States, New Zealand, and especially, Canada.  In Canada, curling became very popular in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

Curling was a demonstration sport at the 1932, 1988, and 1992 Olympic Winter Games.  Until recently, it was also considered to have been demonstrated at the 1924 Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, but more recent evidence makes it apparent that the sport was on the full Olympic program and we give that 1924 sport full Olympic status below.  In 1936 and 1964, German curling (Eisschießen) was also a demonstration sport at the Olympic Winter Games. Curling returned to the Olympic Winter program in 1998 at Nagano, with a tournament for both men and women. World Championships have been contested for men since 1959 and for women since 1979.

The International Curling Federation (ICF) was created after a meeting in March 1965, organized by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.  Six nations attended the meeting in Perth, Scotland; Canada, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.  The ICF was formed the next year with seven founding nations, with France added to the above six.  The name of the organization was changed to the World Curling Federation in 1991.

The WCF has 53 nations affiliated with it as of November 2013.  This makes it the smallest IF of any IOC-recognized sport, winter or summer.  The nations currently affiliated with the WCF are as follows:  Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, US Virgin Islands, and Wales. All are IOC Members except for Kosovo, and the British countries of England, Scotland and Wales have separate national memberships.

The forgotten gold medal

 Back in 2006, The Herald (Glasgow) started an investigation into the 1924 Olympic curling competition. While the British team (all from the RCCC in Perth, Scotland) had won the event and had earned the same medals as other competitors, the event was later frequently listed as a demonstration sport, and it was not included on the IOC website. The IOC resolved this issue in 2006, reconfirming 82 years after the fact that the Scotsmen were in fact Olympic champions. They also resolved another gold medal from Chamonix Games, although this largely went unnoticed.

The 1924 Winter Olympics were, at that time, not officially called Winter Olympics, although many newspapers referred to them that way at the time. They were an experiment, held under supervision of the IOC and staged by the same organization that ran the Summer Olympics in Paris later that year. Only in 1926, with the experiment deemed a success, were these events officially recognized as Olympic. For two sports, however, the winners disappeared from the record books. In both cases, this is likely because they did not return as medal sports in 1928. Curling, for example, only became a medal sport again in 1998, although it was demonstrated in 1932, 1988 and 1992 (and the related German eisstockschießen was demonstrated in 1936 and 1964).

The second sport that fell into oblivion was the military ski patrol. This competition can be considered a forerunner of modern day biathlon, which became Olympic in 1960. It consisted of a four-man team – all of them soldiers – who would ski a 30 km course. Along the way, there were 18 targets set up at 250 m from the course. Three skiers were allowed to take shots; every hit would mean 30 seconds subtracted from the finishing time.  A variant of this competition would later also be held in biathlon, called the team event (not to be confused with the relay).

In Chamonix, the Swiss team won the gold medal. The quartet had the fastest time, and hit 8 targets. While the Finnish group managed 11 targets, their time was not fast enough to threaten the Swiss gold. France placed third with a team that featured Camille Mandrillon, taker of the Olympic oath at those Games.

In 1928, the military ski patrol returned to the Olympics, but this time it was marked as a demonstration sport. The Swiss attempted to defend their title, but were bested by Norway and Finland. The 1936 edition was won by the Italians, who narroly defeated Finland, with Sweden in third. The sport’s final appearance came in 1948. The Swiss repeated their 1924 victory, while Finland placed second for the fourth time, Sweden again taking third place. None of these events held medal status, but a more modern version of the sport, biathlon, was held in Squaw Valley and has been part of the Winter Games since.