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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 12:47 GMT

Curling: How you could win Olympic gold

By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce

Inspired by the glorious feats of Rhona Martin and her gold medal-winning team in Salt Lake City?

Of course you are. But how can you put your newly-found love of curling into practice?

Here's the good news - you could be an international within as little as two years.

"At the end of a game, you're physically knackered"
British Curling Association

The bad news? If you don't live in Scotland, you're going to struggle.

"There are very few curling facilities in England, Wales and Ireland," David Ramsay of the British Curling Association told BBC Sport Online.

"In Scotland it's a lot easier, because there are 30 ice rinks offering curling, from the far south-west to the far north-east. All centres of population have them.

"Within each ice rink there are lots of clubs, so if you go down to the rink you'll be told how you can join up.

"Ability - or a lack of it - shouldn't count against you."

"There's beginners classes at most of rinks," said Ramsay, "and you can be playing from the word go.

"At most clubs there's an international skip playing and a complete beginner leading.

"You can play a meaningful game very quickly, within a week of joining - although it won't be to the standard we saw at the Olympics.

"The basics are very simple to learn. Like golf and the handicap system, you can compete at almost any level."

A new initiative, run in conjunction with the Bank of Scotland, aims to encourage kids to take up the sport.

'Curling's Cool' has seen 12,000 children try the sport in the last three years, for as little as 50p a game.

Even for adults the average cost of a game is generally no more than 6 per head.

Multi-talented sportsmen

So which sort of people are best suited to curling?

"Our best curlers are all very good at another sport," said Ramsay.

"Janice Rankin, who led the British team in the Olympic final, has played representative tennis while two of the men's team are scratch golfers.

"It's all about co-ordination and body skills - the best are multi-talented sportsmen."

"You can take it up at any age or level. But in theory you could progress from beginner to representing your country within as little as two years."

Not that it will be easy.

"The two teams you've seen have been training every day for five months - practising on the ice, doing weights in the gym," said Ramsay.

"The sweeping is hugely physical. Try sweeping hard for 25 seconds, having a minute's recovery, doing it again and then throwing your stone.

"It's very, very hard work - your arms don't stop working. At the end of a game, you're physically knackered.

"And you need enormous precision when releasing the stone. Rhona had a margin of error of two inches with her winning stone - and if you're an inch off at release, you're two feet off at the other end."

You'll have even more of a struggle if you live in the Midlands or south of England.

Stephen Hinds, national development officer for the English Curling Association, admits there is a severe shortage of curling rinks in his country.

"There is only one place you can curl at the moment, just over the Welsh border at the Deeside Leisure Centre outside Chester," he told BBC Sport Online.

"We are building a three-lane rink in Cambourne, just west of Cambridge, but it will be 18 months until that opens.

"In the meantime, curlers in the north of England can go across the border to Scotland - the Preston club journey up to Lockerbie every second Thursday.

"If you live in Kent, Surrey or Sussex, it's not too far to go across the Channel to Paris or Holland for a game.

"But we are hoping that ice rinks across the country will now start to offer curling at their facilities.

"We can supply the stones and brushes. All the rink management need to do is put the effort in and provide good curling ice, as they do at Deeside."

If you'd like to find out more about curling, you can email Stephen Hinds at

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