Debbie McCormick (right) and Ann Swisshelm of the United States sweep the ice during the women's curling competition against Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics. The popularity of the sport spikes during the winter games. | AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Updated: April 14, 2014 3:40AM
It happens every four years.
With every Olympics there comes a surge of interest in classes, camps and coaching for sports seen on the Olympics. This time around the Fort Wayne Curling Club is ready.
“We just opened our new, dedicated curling facility with the target of being ready by the Olympics,” said Craig Fischer, president and co-founder of the Fort Wayne Curling Club. He added, “Curling is a great time — on and off the ice.”
I would agree. A few years back, for a milestone birthday, I was indulged by a group of fun-loving friends at a learn-to-curl program in Kankakee, Ill. On the sheet — the ice playing surface — we learned how to slide to deliver the stone and saw up close the effect that sweeping the ice makes as the stone slides towards the target. We all had a great time while we also learned that the sport is much more challenging than it looks.
Sadly, that facility no longer offers curling. Now, the facilities closest to our corner of Indiana are in Fort Wayne; Indianapolis; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and the “Chicago” club, in Northbrook, Ill. After talking to Fischer, I wish there were one in northwest Indiana. Fort Wayne might be the next best thing.
“Every day of the Olympics we’re offering learn-to-curls,” Fischer said. “It starts with a half hour of off-ice instruction. Then you go onto the ice for a half hour to 45 minutes for delivery and sweeping. Then, we break up into teams and play with help from our club members. It’s a lot of fun.”
But fun is just one of the features of curling, according to Fischer.
“There are so many things that I like — and think are unique — about curling. For one, there are no officials. I think this is the only sport that this is the case from club to professional/Olympic level. Generally the teams agree and the score is posted. In the cases when the shots are too close to call, an official performs measurement to determine which is closet.”
“We shake hands before and after each match,” he continued. “It’s not mechanical or forced like in some other sports. We wish our opponents ‘good curling’ and mean it. There’s no trash talking, and we tell our opponents ‘good shot’ when they make a good shot, even at the Olympics.”
“Another great part of curling is broomsticking: the tradition of socializing with your opponent,” Fischer said. “We talk for an hour or an hour and a half after a match. And the winners — not the losers — buy drinks. This goes back to ethics and the tradition of sportsmanship.”
Fischer added, “We also have a wide age-range of players. The youngest in our league is 11 years old, the oldest is 80. We’ve had kids as young as 8, but they struggle to get the stone all the way down the ice. There is a delivery mechanism that lets you walk down and throw rather than slide. That allows players to continue to play as they age, but I once played a 92-year old woman that still threw without a stick.”
“We also do a lot with folks with mental disabilities. In fact that’s one reason I started. My wife and I have an autistic son and wanted something we could do as a family. We often see three generations playing at one time.”
He told me that regulation stones weigh 38 to 44 pounds, but that you slide and never lift them.
“Our new facility has better ice for a better experience. It has level ice that is pebbled with little bumps on it. That reduces the friction, and it’s not an irregular surface like in a hockey rink. ”
New players can have a great time for $10 per person at the classes, according to Fischer. Spots are still available. Call (260) 438-0689 or go online to www.fortwaynecurling.com for details and registration.
If you can’t get there, can’t wait until your session date, or can’t get enough curling on the Olympic broadcasts, go online to www.tesn.us to see live streams of the Monday night games from the ice at Fort Wayne.