When the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games come around every four years, there are many sports which compete to grab the attention of viewers around the world.
However, there is one in particular that seems to capture the hearts and minds of many every time: curling.
Whether it be the seemingly manic brushing done in front of the stone or the incredible skill needed to accurately slide stones into precise positions from so far away, curling becomes must-watch TV.
The game earned the moniker, The Roarin’ Game, from the roar sound which comes from the granite stone as it travels over the ice.
With the competition underway in Beijing, we’re here to help you understand “what is curling” and answer some of your other top questions.
How many ends are there in a match?
Traditional curling – teams made up of men or women – is played over 10 ends on a strip of ice – called a sheet – which is over 45 meters long and a maximum of five meters wide.
In each end, each player throws two stones, in consecutive order.
However, the format changes slightly for mixed doubles curling.
Games are played over eight ends, with each team playing five stones each.
One player plays the first and fifth stones while the other player plays stones two, three and four.
How do you score?
At each side of the playing surface, there are a series of rings similar to a target – the house. This helps players determine which stones are closest to the center.
Once an end is completed, a team scores one point for each of its stones in or touching the house that are closer to the center than any of the opposition team’s stones.
Only one team is able to score in an end. If neither team’s stones are touching the house, no points are scored – this is called a blank end.
When sliding the stones, each player must release them before a certain line, coined the hog line, for them to be in play.
Although teams can concede before the 10 ends are up, an average game of championship curling can last up to three hours.
What is the hammer?
Throwing last in curling tends to provide a significant advantage to the team which has the opportunity to do so.
Teams alternate throwing the stone down the ice as they aim towards a target which is known as the house.
Therefore, with all bar one stone on the field of play, the team which has the final throw can play kingmaker, knocking away opponents’ stones or knowing where their stone needs to finish for them to win the end.
This last stone is called the hammer – and it’s often decisive in the outcome of the match.
The team which doesn’t score during an end will get the hammer in the following end, which sometimes causes teams to avoid scoring a single point, instead choosing to retain the hammer and attempt to score more heavily in the subsequent round.
However, in mixed doubles, a non-scoring end causes the hammer to be passed to the following end.