One of the new offerings at Steel City Blitz this offseason is coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The 23rd Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, beginning on Friday, February 9th. Over the week before the Games kick off, we will be previewing each of the 15 events that will comprise the Olympics. For many people, they only pay attention to some of these events once every four years, so consider this a quick refresher on how they work and who to watch for as the Olympics take over the sporting world for a fortnight in February.
You can check out all of our Winter Olympics event previews here.
Today’s preview covers Curling, which became something of a late night sensation in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.
February 8-11: Mixed Doubles Round Robin
February 12: Mixed Doubles Semifinals
February 13: Mixed Doubles Finals
February 14-21: Men’s and Women’s Round Robin
February 22: Men’s Semifinals
February 23: Men’s Bronze Medal Match, Women’s Semifinals
February 24: Men’s Finals, Women’s Bronze Medal Match
February 25: Women’s Finals
Curling returned to the Winter Games in 1998 and has been thoroughly dominated by the Canadians. The best way to describe curling is “Canadian shuffleboard”, but that also assumes you know how shuffleboard is played. Perhaps it’s more like bocce on ice. You’d think the Italians would be better if it was bocce on ice, but since there are offical judges, it’s a lot harder for Italians to cheat with the “two sticks” method of measurement that my grandfather and uncles used. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you didn’t grow up in a big Italian family.
Points are scored in curling by getting your stones closer to the center of the scoring are (called the “house”) than the other team. Like in baseball, there game is split up into innings (called “Ends”). Only one team may score per end, but a team may accumulate multiple points in an end if they have more than one stone closer to the center than their opponents closest stone. The team with the most points after ten “ends” is the winner.
The Men’s and Women’s tournaments features ten teams that will all play each other in a round-robin format in the preliminary round. The top four teams will advance to head-to-head semi-finals with the winners advancing to the Gold Medal Game and the losers playing for Bronze. The Mixed Doubles tournament features eight teams. Similarly, the eight teams play in a round-robin format with the top four advancing to head-to-head semifinals and medal round matches.
Canadian teams have traditionally dominated curling. The Canadian Men’s team has reached the Gold Medal match in every year since Curling returned to the Olympics in 1998. The Canadian men have won the last three gold medals. In addition to winning the last three Olympic Golds, the Canadian Men won the last two Curling World Championships. On the women’s side, the Canadians have won a medal in every Olympics since 1998 and the Women’s team won gold in Sochi 2014 and are the reigning World Champions. Sweden has also been a powerhouse on the women’s side, winning gold in Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 before falling to the Canadian team in the Gold Medal match in Sochi. Switzerland also has a strong Women’s team, winning the 2016 World Championship. Scotland also has a strong curling tradition but competes under the banner of “Great Britain” in the Olympics. China is the top-ranked team in Mixed Doubles.
The United States Men’s team won a bronze medal in Turin 2006, but reached the third place match in the last two World Championships. They figure to be right in the mix for a medal. Their team is led by two members from that 2006 squad – John Shuster and Joe Polo. The US Women’s team finished 5th and 6th in the World Championships the last two years and will likely need to pull an upset over one of the traditional powerhouses in order to make the knockout stage of the tournament. In mixed doubles, the sibling team of Becca and Matt Hamilton could be a threat at the podium. They were perfect in group play at the 2017 World Championships but were upset in the first round of the knockout stage of the tournament.