In my youth, the only curlers I knew were the rags my mother used to put in my hair. I was vaguely aware that my BFF’s brother was a curler, but I cannot say I was interested enough to find out anything about the sport. In fact, I’m not sure it was much of a sport back then.
My husband was a great curler in his youth, representing his club in the provincial playdowns several times. His teenage years were consumed with curling. His knowledge of and passion for the game, not to mention the numerous trophies that we have in our home, (those were the days when no one but the winner got a trophy) taught me all about the game. Not just the logistics of the game, but how difficult it is (here in Canada) to be the best team in your club let alone your zone, province, or country. That degree of difficulty has not changed. It might be even tougher as there are so many good teams out there.
My two eldest sons started curling at the age of four. They both curled locally for years, coached by their father. The younger of the two was not as passionate about the sport as the elder who also went on to curl competitively including representing our area in the provincials. Unfortunately, much to the chagrin of his dad, his curling days took a back seat to his goal of becoming a civil engineer.
Both sons learned a lot on the curling ice including leadership, team play, and communication skills. Both developed friendships that have lasted over the years. In fact, my eldest son met his new wife within the first few years of his curling career. They both still curl at the same RCC although she is currently taking a hiatus to give birth to their first child!
Gone are the days, however, when drinking beer (adults only of course) and munching on junk food after the game were the highlights of the sport, at least at the competitive level. Today, teams and individuals are known for their fitness level, mental endurance, and strategically amazing shots. Sorry Ed Werenich, but the days of the belly hanging over the belt as you crouch on the ice to throw your shot are long gone.
Watching the mixed doubles category in the Winter Olympics this week, it is obvious that these curlers definitely have to be physically fit athletes to compete at this level today. With just two (traditional curling has four) curlers per team, they are throwing a rock, then quickly jumping up to sweep it down the ice toward the house. I broke out in a (nervous) sweat watching them, especially the gold medal game between Canada and Switzerland.
The pairing of Canada’s John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes was spectacular to watch as they brought home the gold.
9 thoughts on “Do Curlers Have to be Physically Fit?”
Oh my, they are fit for sure. Watching that little gal sweep like a fiend proved that.
You are correct that a high level of physical fitness is important to
play _this_ game at _this_ level. I’m just glad that this isn’t as
true for ‘normal’ curling at the club level — the only level most of
us ever see. There, the requirement for fitness (while still a
factor) is not as important as things like experience, consistency and
I had a game yesterday. When I drove into the club’s parking lot, at least
half of the handicapped parking spots were filled. We (a team of four
oldish men) played a close and hard-fought game against another team
of four oldish men. On the sheet to our left a heart attack survivor
played (and ultimately defeated) a cancer survivor. To our right were
two teams composed entirely of grandfathers. Two sheets over two
women’s teams (I don’t know details, but there were several grandmothers
and at least one bad back) played a game that came down to the last
rock in the last end.
Mixed doubles is a made-for-TV sport designed to be played by young,
fit people on near-perfect arena ice and that’s okay. It’s compelling
television and an entertaining game. I just think that the true
strength of curling as a sport is its accessability to all ages and
fitness levels. I suspect the guy on sheet six carrying an oxygen tank
and the guy on two with MS would agree.
I curled a few years in high school in Calgary. Most of us were in fairly good shape. The first year I was lead and the second I was third. LOL Our team won the Calgary High School Bonspiel and our Skip went on to be on the team winning the provincial one.
Throwing the stones required at least a bit of strength, but sweeping was a bit of a workout.
After the curling season I went 5 pin bowling and it was a blast. I guess I developed some control and muscles I didn’t know I had. I had my best scores ever!
Oh come on. Right now in the Olympics, the American men’s team (some of whose members are in their late thirties) is skipped by a man who has a thick waist. There is no comparison between the physical demands of curling and, say, hockey or ice dancing, and this whole business of buff curlers is mostly aesthetics. Ever seen a curler out of breath? Ever seen a curler run during a game? Ever heard of anyone being injured curling?
I’ll bet the top men’s and women’s teams could play each other, and the women would win games. This wouldn’t happen in hockey, would it?
My guess: Olympic curlers got tired of the jokes about their stout, aged bodies and arbitrarily made it a requirement for players to get gym bodies. Is there any evidence that being in top physical shape produces better curling shots? I doubt it.
Watch curling. Obviously throwing a curling rock does not involve either speed or strength. Historically, fat guys who smoked cigarettes while they played have been champions at curling. As for sweeping, right now there are at least five million people in Canada who could play on an Olympic curling team if their only duty was sweeping.
When a speed skater does leg presses in a gym this is a necessary part of a speed skater’s training. When a curler does leg presses it is an affectation and probably a waste of time and effort, unless you are trying to kid people that curling takes great physical strength.
Curling is like snooker or bowling. It takes real athletic skill but no one has to develop big, gym boy muscles to do it well. It takes no more cardiovascular endurance than you’d need to walk two miles. Anybody who can shovel out a driveway after a light snow is strong enough to curl.
Well I have never said curling isn’t difficult. The question was, is it so physically strenuous that curlers have to undergo arduous physical training? Just by asking the question you have already conceded that the answer is arguably no. Nobody asks, do you have to be physically fit to be a Nordic skier?
In the 1987 Olympic trials, Ed Werenich, who clearly had the skills to make Canada’s curling team, was told that he would lose his spot on the team if he didn’t lose weight. And that’s what galls here: In curling, image trumps actual athletic skill, so ironically curling teams’ insistence that curlers do gym workouts decreases curling’s credibility as an Olympic sport.
Interestingly there are professional baseball players who are actually obese, and baseball really does take speed and strength (although not much stamina.) Nobody is suggesting that fat baseball players should be disqualified because of how they look.
I thought the question was “Do curlers have to be physically fit?” To that I say — the best ones I have seen are physically fit. You don’t have to bench press 300 pounds or run a marathon or have flat-six-pack abs. The type of prowess a curler has is in a similar vein to that of a golfer. (And please note, I said “similar vein”.) It has to do with control, it has to do with precision and accuracy. It has to do with controlling a mass while on a low friction surface where you only have one push off point. After pushing off, you should already be on track, but you have the control of how fast the rock should spin and whether it spins inward or outward.
When I was a kid in the 60s, I thought all smokers smoked and drank rum and coke or something like that. Half the curling prizes seemed to be curling stone shaped stone ash trays.
But, I think long before curling came to the Winter Olympics, the beer bellies had already disappeared and smoking was no longer allowed on the rinks.
Although I played some hockey, my favourite sports were soccer, curling, and golf. …and for some reason the coach wanted me on the Sr Football team. LOL
Out of idle-ish curiosity I came back and I can’t resist putting my .02 in again.
First of all, the word ‘sweeping’ is largely historical and you could argue that the way the game is currently played it’s an imperfect description. Various TV talking heads like to call it ‘brushing’ which might be a better choice but isn’t perfect either. What it is is ‘using a cloth pad on a stick to alter the temperature of a strip of ice by rubbing on it’ but as far as I know there isn’t a word for that. ‘Sweeping’ will do.
About a decade ago a small group of students that curled at our club did a piece of research where they tried to answer the question “how much farther will a rock travel due to sweeping?” Their conclusions were that on club ice, two decent sweepers could ‘take’ a rock 8-12 feet farther. To do that two young (undergraduate age) fairly fit men would sweep (or ‘alter ice temperature by rubbing on it’) from end-to-end.
Another ‘data point’ comes from a pair of brothers that used to play on the bonspiel circuit around here. They had a standing bet ($100 I think) that you could throw a rock and if they could sweep it you wouldn’t get your rock anywhere in the rings. If your rock was short, they’d do nothing and let it die. If it was ‘heavy’, again they’d do nothing and let it go through. If they thought your rock was going to be in the rings, they’d sweep like demons and get it through. They lost the bet occasionally, but not often. Their ‘8-12’ feet was clearly closer to 16.
No matter what the number there is huge value in good sweepers — the thrower doesn’t have to throw the rock to a specific point but somewhere in front of it. (You’ll hear TV talking heads say “throw it to the sweepers” a lot. Good sweepers win games.)
Do sweepers have to be incredibly buff? Of course not. But the stronger they are, the bigger that ‘target’ will get. (While 8 feet is good, 16 is better. Alas, I mostly curl with old men — it’s probably closer to 2 or 3.) And the fitter they are the more rocks they can sweep without getting tired. And given the parity that exists in the game today, anything that gives you an edge — no matter how small — is worth doing.