Interest in curling heats up
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Feb 10, 2014, 13:02
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Rich Collins demonstrates proper form when throwing the stone down the ice.
CHESTERFIELD — As the world watches the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi begin on February 7, and a growing community develops an interest in the curling event, a unique club in Virginia will offer citizens the opportunity to get out on the ice and try their own hand at the sport.
The Curling Club of Virginia, the only official curling club in the state, will begin offering the public several opportunities to learn and experience the world of curling through different lessons and demonstrations starting February 15 at the Richmond Ice Zone in Midlothian.
Christina Hayashi, a Chester resident of about 10 years, has been with the Curling Club of Virginia for nine months after she gained an interest in curling back in 2010 and periodically began browsing for clubs or leagues in the area, and she eventually attended a learn-to-curl session at the Richmond Ice Zone.
Hayashi, who will be attending the Cherry Blossom bonspiel (or curling tournament) with a team in Maryland in March, said that she is really drawn to the fact that curling breaks away from the traditional competition of a lot of other sports.
“It’s what they refer to as a gentleman’s sport. So even if somebody on the opposing team [has] a good throw, you’re still excited for that person. It’s friendly competition versus going out and being mean and aggressive [through] competition,” Hayashi said.
Jeanne Dupuis, a board member for the Curling Club of Virginia formerly from Montreal, said that Hayashi is a great example of how inviting the curling atmosphere is and how quickly someone can pick it up.
“It shows that you don’t have to be Canadian, you don’t have to be super experienced. You don’t need equipment. We provide it,” Dupuis said.
Rich Collins, who has being curling along the East Coast for almost 10 years and helped found the club in 2011 along with his wife, Kirsten, and several others, said that curling has so much to offer.
“Most curlers are really great people. It’s a great way to get some exercise and have some fun and meet some interesting people at the same time,” Rich said.
Kirsten and Rich actually met through curling many years ago.
“Curlers are like nobody else. It’s an instant community. ... I’ve been doing it for 10 years [and] I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” Kirsten said.
Rich said that he was really attracted to the strategic elements involved in curling.
“The strategy is a huge part of the game. Some people call it chess on ice. You’re playing with good people who can make their shots. It’s a really challenging, strategic game, and being an engineer, I love that aspect of the game,” Rich said.
A curling match usually consists of eight or 10 rounds referred to as “ends,” during which two teams alternate throwing 42-pound granite stones, each team throwing eight, toward a large bulls-eye at the other end of the ice. At the conclusion of an end, the team with more stones closest to the center of the bulls-eye will receive points for that number of stones.
A typical curling team is comprised of four members who each have a different position referred to as the lead, second, skip and vice-skip. One person “throws” or pushes the stone, which has a handle on top, down the ice. Two members act as sweepers where they control the speed and direction of the stone by brushing the ice with brooms as the stone slides. A fourth member stands by the bulls-eye directing the actions of both the thrower and the sweepers.
Dupuis said that curling is much more popular in Canada and her friends’ moms were always playing it while she was growing up.
Although she was constantly surrounded by it, Dupuis said she never curled herself until she moved to Richmond and a co-worker convinced her to go to one of the Curling Club of Virginia’s open houses in 2012.
Dupuis joined the league following the open house, and ended up taking home a bronze and a silver award in two separate tournaments in her first two years of curling.
She even powered through a concussion during a bonspiel in May of 2012, where the ice was melting from the hot temperatures and she fell and hit her head “so hard it took a chunk out of the ice.”
With only two players on the team due to the inability of the other two to make it to the tournament, and her teammate also hurting her elbow on the ice, they held onto a “go big or go home” mentality and finished in third place, Dupuis said.
As far as the injuries go, Dupuis said that it shouldn’t deter anyone from developing an interest an curling.
“It’s like any sport. There’s always risk involved. That shouldn’t keep you from being active,” Dupuis said, hoping to get back on the ice in March following a period of recovery.
In addition to providing a fun and friendly form of active competition, Hayashi mentioned that curling is a good opportunity for families as well, having taken her 15-year-old daughter out on the ice before.
Hayashi is excited that curling will be getting more primetime events on NBC during this year’s winter Olympics, for which several viewing parties will be set up through the club.
The Curling Club of Virginia had 22 members last year, and Rich said they hope to double that membership as the club begins its next season this year.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Curling Club of Virginia can visit the website at www.curlingva.org, where online registration is available along with more information regarding upcoming club events and basic curling facts.