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With the winter Olympics at Sochi nearly over, curling, the quirky ice sport introduced in Scotland in the 16th century (some say it may have originated in Holland or Bruges) takes center stage. Women’s curling teams from Sweden and Canada will compete for the gold today, the men’s teams from Sweden and Great Britain on Friday. Despite its ancient pedigree, curling didn’t make the Winter Olympics until 1998, but has since grown popular across the globe—including at BU, which launched a curling club in 2006.
The game is both baffling and fascinating to viewers. Two teams of four players—a lead, a second, a vice, and a skip—take turns sliding their eight stones across the ice to a designated target (four concentric rings with a bull’s-eye, or button, in the center). Points are given for the stones closest to the button’s center.
Misconceptions about the sport linger—for starters, that the brooms are really brooms (they aren’t), or that the polished stones, or rocks, really aren’t stones (they are, all 42 pounds of them). The game requires mental agility, and “is definitely a lot harder than it looks,” according to club member Scott Nickelsberg (ENG’17). “There’s definitely a lot more strategy involved.”
The BU Curling Club (BUCC) remains small—approximately 15 members. That’s not unusual for college curling clubs. So each Friday Nickelsberg and his teammates travel 20 minutes by bus with curlers from MIT and Harvard to Broomstones Curling Club, in Wayland, Mass., where they hold informal scrimmages. “It’s been really nice, because we’ve gotten to know the players from those schools, and they’re all really great people,” says BUCC secretary Matt Ruse (SMG’15).
As a member of the USA Curling College Championship, the BU club also competes at least twice a semester against curling teams from Rochester Institute of Technology, Colgate, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and MIT. The club will travel to Minnesota for the US College Curling National Championship, being held March 14 to 16 (the team placed fourth last year).
“The college community is just growing year by year,” says curler Rahat Bathija (SMG’14). Yale, MIT, Emerson, and BC have formed curling clubs, although a rivalry has yet to develop between any one of them—because of the friendly nature of the sport, the students insist.
“Anyone can join in,” says Huse. You don’t have to be in prime physical shape to play, but a good sense of balance, strong knees, and physical endurance are a plus. “Your arms can get tired sweeping the stone.”
Bathija offers this challenge to curling skeptics: “To those who think that it’s not a sport, come try it and tell me what you think after you play.”