Back in the 90s when curling was the hip new Olympic sport (what?), I saw a sign in my hometown inviting people to come and try it out for free with the local curling club. I was so there.
I arrived at the festive lodge in a bulky coat ready to step out onto the ice, until one of the members instructed me to first strap this plastic slider onto my shoe; apparently, the ice was not treacherous enough. The idea was that you’d grip a round stone with a handle and glide it as accurately as you could toward the target on the other side of the pitch. With an extra-slide-y shoe, it was easy to tip over.
Just when I thought I was getting the hang of it, another member said, “Great, now let’s try sweeping!” with an enthusiasm that made me wonder if he was talking about the same domestic task that I did every week in my kitchen—the task that in my mind did not deserve an exclamation point.
While one team member released a stone, our instructor showed us how two other team members get out in front of a stone and start shuffling along and sweeping the ice. Huh? This would smooth the ice, he explained, encouraging the stone to go farther. The key was learning when to stop sweeping. Usually, the team captain would yell, “Sweep!” or “Stop!” which all too often sounded the same to me. Turns out I was an enthusiastic sweeper.
With the firm belief that this was a sport I could handle, I signed up and got my league assignment. I was the only woman on a team of four, all encouraging guys who made me feel like I was a natural. I was not. Despite my lack of skills, we ended up in first place that season and celebrated with drinks in the clubhouse afterwards. The country club feel was not for me, but I had enjoyed that rare moment when I placed the stone exactly where the team wanted me to place it, even if what they thought was skill was really luck.
So, adopting the brilliant idea for an Olympic Persona Generator app over at Kim’s Tour of No Regrets, I declare myself Ingrid Bing, Olympic curler. After a devastating sweeping injury, I came back this year to win a team silver medal. We might have taken the gold had my teammate not dropped the stone on his own foot in competition.
In a sport that gets no respect—curlers spend half their time saying It is NOT shuffleboard on ice!— you have to hand it to this year’s Norwegian curling team. Their loud pants are bringing attention to the mild-mannered sport in a way that says, yes, this sport is a little ridiculous, and we embrace that.