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With less than six weeks until the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, the 10 women’s and 10 men’s teams to compete in the Olympic curling competitions in the 6,000-capacity Vancouver Olympic Center are now confirmed. As host of the Games, Canada, one of the leading nations in this sport, gained automatic entry for both a men’s and women’s team. The remaining 18 teams qualified thanks to their results in the World Curling Championships from 2007 to 2009.
Speaking following his official nomination, skip of the Swiss men’s team and Salt Lake City Olympic bronze medallist Markus Eggler said, “When we started playing together as a team three-and–a-half years ago, it was our goal to get to the Olympics. We are delighted we’ve made it, but our next goal is to win a medal.”
In the women’s competition, Swedish skip Anette Norberg returns to defend her gold medal title won in Turin in 2006. Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott, who took silver in Turin, will be aiming for one step higher on the podium this time. In the men’s competition, Canada’s Kevin Martin, who took silver in Salt Lake City in 2002, returns to represent the host nation and defend Canada’s gold medal title from Turin. Some of the toughest competition is expected to come from Team Great Britain, skipped by David Murdoch. Representing Scotland, Murdoch and his team are currently men’s World Champions.
With the growth of curling in Asia since the last Olympic Winter Games, China will make history in winter sport in Vancouver. Chinese men’s and women’s teams will make their first appearance ever at an Olympic curling competition. The Chinese women’s team, skipped by Bingyu Wang, are reining women’s World Champions.
A game of curling consists of ten “ends” (rounds), and is played between two teams of four players each. The aim is to score as many points as possible, with each team alternating turns in sliding a 19.1 kg stone – made of rare granite quarried in Scotland – towards a series of concentric circles. During an end, each team must deliver eight stones – two stones per person. The order of players must be presented to officials prior to the game. The first player is known as the “lead”. The “second”, then the “third” follow before the “skip” – effectively the team captain – concludes the end. After each player’s releases, fellow team members equipped with brooms and special curling shoes sweep the “pebbled” ice to control the stone’s direction, known as its “curl”, and its speed. Scores are determined when each end is concluded and all 16 stones have been delivered. The team with the most points at the conclusion of 10 ends is the winner.
As well as being set in a lively Vancouver community that includes the Queen Elizabeth Park and views of the nearby mountains, the Vancouver Olympic Centre will certainly boast a lasting legacy. After the Games, the venue will be transformed into a multi-purpose community recreation centre with facilities for an ice hockey rink, gymnasium, library and six-to-eight sheets of curling ice. But it is during the Games that the Olympic Centre will hope to leave its mark. With a capacity for 6,000 spectators, the curling competition in Vancouver should be a noisy and entertaining affair – also during the Paralympic Games as curling is a Paralympic sport.
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