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October 23, 2014

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All about curling: International athletes brush up on their skills on road to Olympics

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Steve Marcus

Curling instructor Nick Kitinski shows his curling form as he releases a stone during an open practice session of the Las Vegas Curling Club at the Las Vegas Ice Center on West Flamingo Road on Feb 12, 2012.

Dozens of Olympic athletes are in Las Vegas this week to compete in the World Financial Group Continental Cup at the Orleans Arena, the last major curling competition until next month’s Winter Olympics in Russia.

“The best curlers in the world are going head-to-head here, and the next time they’ll see each other will be in Sochi in competition for Olympic medals,” said event co-manager Jon Killoran, CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition.

When it became clear that Reno was out of the running to host the 2022 Winter Games, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Killoran angled to bring the Continental Cup to Las Vegas. This year marks the first time the four-day competition is held outside Canada.

    • What is curling?

      Curling is a sport played on a flat sheet of ice 150 feet long and 16.5 feet wide. The object is to slide “stones” — 40-pound granite discs — onto a target at the end of the sheet.

      The target, known as the “house,” has circular zones 4, 8 and 12 feet in diameter. The center is known as the “button.”

      A thrower releases a stone, and a team of two sweepers armed with brooms or brushes sweep ahead of its trajectory to alter its course and have it land in the button.

      A game is known as a “draw,” and 16 stones are thrown in an “end.” While some international competitions have 10 ends, Cup draws have eight.

    • The infrastructure

      The Orleans Arena, home to the Las Vegas Wranglers, has three curling sheets running the length of its ice.

      Where’s the best place to sit to catch the action? Curling fans are split in their preference. Some like the vantage point from the ends (sections 101, 102, 118, 119 and 105-115), while others prefer center seats (sections 103, 104, 116 and 117) to see both ends.

      As for the scoreboards, they resemble baseball scorecards.

      With action occurring on three sheets simultaneously, the crowd can change from silent to raucous. Fans may be quiet as throwers focus and launch their shots or cheer wildly as the stones approach the house and the sweepers work frantically.

    • The history

      Curling first was played in Scotland in 1541.

      Scottish emigrants took the sport to Canada in the 1800s, and it became one of the nation’s favorite activities. About half of the seats for the Continental Cup were sold to Canadian fans last year.

      Curling has been an Olympic event since 1998. Canada is the two-time defending Olympic men's gold medalist; Sweden is the two-time defending women's gold medalist. The U.S. men’s curling team won its only medal, a bronze, at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

    • Did you know?

      • Curling is one of the few sports in which men and women compete using the same equipment. The Continental Cup has mixed-doubles events. In the Olympics, however, it’s strictly men against men and women against women.

      • Curlers are reputed to be among the most fan-friendly athletes in the world. They are expected to make themselves readily available for autographs and pictures at the Orleans.

      • The Continental Cup is expected to be the second-best attended curling event in U.S. history after the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

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