The 2014 Winter Olympics open on February 7 in Sochi, Russia and that can only mean one thing: It’s time, once more, for curling.
Sure, there are other sports at the Winter Games. Ski jumping, in which men and women hurtle down an ice sheet before launching themselves into the air covering hundreds of feet before landing in a controlled crash. Ho hum. Figure skating, which features daring athleticism as men and women spin, jump, flip and otherwise defy gravity as they gracefully slide about the ice surface. Big deal. Alpine Skiing, which features athletes racing down a mountain at breakneck speed. Yawn.
Nope. Nothing at the Olympics quite excites the sports fan as much as curling, and there really isn’t a good reason why. Once sneered at as “shuffle board on ice,” curling achieved mythic status in 1998 when it first achieved medal sport status. ESPN, which covered the Nagano Games in 1998 in conjunction with ABC-Sports, didn’t quite have the “sexy sports.” Hockey, figure skating, bobsledding—all of these were on ABC while ESPN settled for lesser-known sports such as biathlon, luge and curling.

It was a hit
For some reason, the sweeping, the rocks, the body English all struck a chord with American sports fans in a way few expected. Now, curling is among the most popular events at the Winter Games and, it just so happens that Sweden is very good at curling.
The Swedish men’s team, led by skip Niklas Edin, is currently ranked third in the world and has a shot at winning the gold. Sweden narrowly missed out on reaching the gold-medal game at Vancouver four years ago when it lost to Norway in overtime (called an “extra end” in curling lingo). Canada, gold medalists in 2010, tops the current world ranking followed by Scotland/Great Britain.
For this Olympics, Karlstad CK, the Swedish national curling champions, will don the blue and yellow. Sweden selects its curling team for the Olympics with a national championship competition rather than selecting individual curlers for an amalgamated team.
Edin is the skip or the shot caller of the team. Four curlers participate in the match, with one alternate. Edin selects his team prior to the match. Each curler has two “stones” which he slides down the ice toward a scoring area, delineated by red and blue rings. The curler delivering the stone (meaning the person sliding the stone) owns the “house,” which is the rink. The other players take up position with small brooms to sweep the ice ahead of the stone. That means when Edin is delivering the stone for the men, Sebastian Kraupp, Viktor Kjell, Fredrik Lindberg or Oskar Eriksson will slide down the ice furiously “cleaning” the ice ahead the rock, looking to channel the stone in a particular direction.


Women even better
The women are even better. Sweden is the top-ranked team in the world and the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in curling. Margaretha Sigfridsson is skip of the team, which in curling is a “rink,” and will select from Maria Prytz, Christina Bertrup, Maria Wennström and Agnes Knochenhauer for each match. Sigfridsson led Sweden to the 2013 European Championship gold medal, knocking off Scotland 10-5. Sweden and Scotland are the teams likely to reach the final at Sochi.
The Olympic curling tournament opens February 10. The men play an 11-match round robin tournament while the women have 12 matches. The Swedish men face Great Britain in their second match and the women open against Great Britain on February 11. The top four teams advance to the semifinals.
NBC plans to show all the curling on its affiliate networks. For a compete schedule of curling, go to