By Chipp Reid

The Swedish men’s curling team is taking a different approach to competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. While most other teams spend the bulk of their time on the ice working on throws and sweeping, the Swedes are in the gym, working with ropes.
The novel idea, which team skip Niklas Edin called “Red Cord” is part of an overall plan the Swedes have toward the competition.
“I think we’ll be the fittest team at the Olympics,” Edin said. “We’re really not far behind the really physical sports like hockey. In fact, for our body mass, I think our stamina and endurance is better than hockey players.”
The curlers are in the gym nearly every day of the week, working on both strength and coordination in a series of basics with a twist. Instead of using a bar to do pull ups or chin ups or even crunches, the Swedes use two red cords hanging from the ceiling.
“It’s very easy to do everything perfectly on a machine. It’s a lot different with the cords,” Edin said. “You have to adjust your weight and move around a lot. It really helps with coordination.”
In curling, the skips (the players that toss the stone or rock down the ice) use their core muscles the most. The movement is somewhat similar to bowling, only a skip is much lower to the ice surface than a bowler is to the wooden lane. The toss requires not only strong arms but strong abdomen and leg muscles as well.
“I think it really tells in the second half of a match,” Edin said. “If you want to win a long and tough match, like the final in Aberdeen, you need to prepare physically.”
Edin and the Swedes won the European Championships in December by beating Switzerland in an “extra end” or overtime. The tournament was in Aberdeen, Scotland. The unexpected victory put the Swedes on the curling map in only their first major competition.
“We knew we had a chance at a medal if we played our best,” Edin said. “Maybe if we play as well at the Olympics as we did at Aberdeen we can win a medal.”
The Swedes were the youngest team at the European Championships and will be the youngest team in the Olympics. He said communication and teamwork would have to make up for lack of experience at the top levels. As a skip, Edin yells out commands to the two sweeps (players with small brooms) that furiously scrub the ice to help guide the rock to where the sweeps wants it.
“We really talk a lot,” he said. “I really tell them what I want them to do, if they need to straighten the path or make curl more. I tell them how to handle the rock.”
The youthful Swedes head to the Vancouver Games as a decided underdog despite their win in Scotland. Canada is the heavy favorite along with the United States, Scotland and China. Edin said he simply wants to “do our best.”
“All those teams are a lot better,” Edin said. “We want to build toward four years from now. Of course, if we do well at the Olympics, it can only help curling to grow in Sweden.”
Although he’s not gunning for gold, Edin said Sweden’s youth could prove to be a spoiler in the Olympic tournament.
“We just want to do well and get some good results,” he said. “If we come fourth or fifth that would be great. I think we will be very relaxed and with a little extra of that underdog spirit, we might just be dangerous. We have nothing to lose and everything to win.”

For a look at all of the Swedish teams to compete in Vancouver: www.nordstjernan.com/news/sports/1865/

More info on Swedish curling: http://www.nordstjernan.com/news/sports/1777/