Curling: Your (Kids') Best Chance to Be an Olympian
Hello! Welcome to the new Triangle Curling Club blog. About once a week, we'll be blogging about our club, our quest to build our own dedicated curling facility, and curling in general. When I say "new blog", really, we mean that our website will start to have more regular content and postings, and that it will tend to be more blog-like in nature. Enjoy!
Also, we promise that our blog posts are not just going to be thinly veiled attempts at fundraising. cough cough donate cough cough ... Wait, what was that?
So, let's be honest: we, the Triangle Curling Club, would be nowhere without the Olympics. Sure, the club has been around since before curling made its Olympic debut, but only after the 2006 Torino/Turin Olympics did the club membership grow enough for us to even have one weekly league, let alone two. If not for seeing it in the Olympics, much of the current club membership would never have taken up curling in the first place. (Our club membership is equal parts Northerners/Canadians who learned the game up north and then moved here, plus locals who watched the Olympics, got curious, and curled for the first time with us.)
Since the Olympics is what brought a lot of us here, that begs the question: what chance do we have of making the Olympics? Well, we are now going to present the following argument: Out of all the Olympic sports, curling offers your best opportunity for you, or your kids, to make the Olympic games. Here is our reasoning:
There are many more gymnasts than there are curlers in the United States, for example. The Olympics sports you're probably most familiar with are also quite popular in this country. Let's do the math: if you want to become an Olympic figure skater or swimmer, then you're vying for one of only a handful of spots out of the millions of prospective figure skaters and swimmers there are in the United States. Long odds indeed! But at last count, there were somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 curlers in the United States. Ten of those represent the United States every four years at the Winter Olympics. (That includes alternates. They get medals, too!) Those may still sound like long odds, but as far as making the Olympic games go, you're not going to get better odds than that. And while curling isn't necessarily the only Olympic sport with fewer than 20,000 participating Americans, my next point helps make curling stand out:
Historically, the United States has been pretty good at curling. What we mean by that is, USA Curling is almost always good enough to qualify for the Olympics (so far - while our women are in, our men still have to qualify for Sochi). We've even won a medal! So most years, you can count on the USA having a seat at the Olympic curling table. That's not true with every Olympic sport. There are a lot of Summer Olympic sports - handball, badminton, table tennis, just to name a few - that have, at times, been called the "curling of the Summer Olympics": a quirky sport without a mainstream following that isn't on American television much outside of the Olympics. However, the USA generally struggles in the Olympics at those sports, if we even qualify at all. So while curling isn't the only Olympic sport with a relatively small American following, it is probably the only one in which we regularly qualify for the Olympics and can compete for world championships.
There is room at the top. As solid as we've been over the years, USA Curling has no single dominant team on either the men's or women's side. And with curling, participation in the Olympics (and also the annual World Championships) is 100% merit-based. No politics involved, no "impressing the coaches", nothing; it's all about who the best curlers are. Win the trials, go to the Olympics. That could be you!
You don't have to start at age 5 in order to become a world class curler. Apparently, in order to become a world class ski jumper, you pretty much need to start doing it by age 5. And if you're not already ski jumping by, say, age 10, forget it. Not so with curling! Starting early helps, obviously, but it's not a prerequesite. This year's curling World Championships featured many curlers in their 20s and 30s who only started curling in their teens. It is, in fact, theoretically possible to only start curling in your 20s, and still be able to make the Olympics. This is much more so the case in curling than other sports. Building on that point...
You can curl competitively well into your 40s, and beyond! This year, Brady Clark won his first USA men's curling championship...at age 35. In the Vancouver Olympics, Canadian Kevin Martin won his first men's curling gold medal...at age 43. This means a couple of things: 1) It's not too late! 2) If you're lucky enough to start curling when you're a kid, then you can look forward to OVER 20 YEARS of opportunities to make the Olympic games. With some Olympic sports, you only have one or two chances to make the Olympics, because by the time you hit your 20s, you're done. Sure, it seems like Michael Phelps has been around forever, but he's still only 27 years old. If that makes you feel old, don't worry - in curling terms, you're still young!
This is actually a good reason to take up curling in general. You can curl virtually your entire life, even into your 80s. That's something for Michael Phelps to consider. I mean, other than Subway commercials, what else is he going to do for the next 20 years?
You don't need to be 6'10" to be a good curler. If you're 5'8" and want to play Olympic basketball or volleyball, then, well...we don't know how to tell you this, but...sorry. Not so with curling! Short, tall, doesn't matter. Curling is a precision sport, and you can do it well regardless of your physical attributes.
It doesn't matter where you live, as long as you have dedicated curling ice. This is where we come in! Curling on hockey ice is fun and all, but it's a completely different game compared to curling on dedicated ice, and it can't possibly prepare you for curling at the national or world level. Having our own curling building will change that. And just because we're south of the Mason-Dixon line doesn't mean it can't happen for us. While most of our nation's top curlers live in Wisconsin and Minnesota, our last two men's national champions have come from New York and Seattle. Who's to say Raleigh can't be next? (Well, maybe not next next; we're thinking long term.)
Eventually, we hope to start a junior curling program. Standard curling rocks are kind of big and heavy, and that means childen can't really curl with the big kids until they're 10 or 11 years old. (We do actually have a couple of 11-year-olds who curled in our adult leagues this season.) However, many clubs have a set of smaller, lighter rocks, enabling curlers of elementary school age to curl. For us, this is at least a few years down the road, but if you have a 1-year-old child right now, it's something to keep in mind for the future.
And, finally: YOU NEVER KNOW. We all have hidden talents. Maybe your hidden talent is curling. Until you come give it a try, you never know. What if Tiger Woods's dad never gave his son a golf club?