Let’s face it bluntly, let’s accept an initiation to curling immediately made us reappear some stereotypes nourished in front of our television, every four years at the time of the Winter Olympics. Screams, hyperactive sweepers and somewhat complex rules… It doesn’t take much for this sport, a distant cousin of pétanque, to affectionately endure a few schoolboy jokes.
That evening, on the ice rink which covers the Rainier-III nautical stadium each winter, our presence aims to break down prejudices and try out an atypical sport, admittedly, not very democratized in neighboring France, and eminently strategic.
A question of dosage
First stage: the preparation of the playing field where the teams compete in 4 against 4. Hot water is projected on a strip of ice 30 meters long.
“This will create pearls of ice and allow the stones to slide more easily and therefore more quickly”explains Bruno Catelin, head of the curling section at the Skating Club of Monaco (SCOM).
From the explanation of the many rules, I retain the essential: place the stones as close as possible to a circular target drawn on the ice, “the House” in the jargon, to earn points. “It’s chess on ice”summarizes Bruno Catelin.
The whole strategy thus consists in placing one’s pawns to the nearest centimeter to control the chessboard and hinder future enemy shots. But for this, the technical mastery of the throw is essential.
The six members of the curling section, created four years ago, give me some valuable advice. “The two legs and the stone must always remain in line. It’s a gesture that comes with training.”whispered Bruno Catelin.
Everything is also a question of dosage.
A 20 kg stone
In the right hand, the granite stone in question weighs 19.96 kg, with a diameter of 28 centimeters. But on the ice, its weight would almost be that of a feather.
A slippery sole under the left foot, the right foot resting on the pedal start, I try my first throw. With the help of a stabilizer in my left hand, I start sliding for a few meters and gently let go of the stone. “If she don’t cross that line [la zone de garde et la maison se trouvant au-delà, N.D.L.R.] the stone is automatically eliminated”I am warned.
VSFortunately, it passed thanks to the action of my two sweeping teammates. “They ensure that the stone keeps its line and, by rubbing and heating the ice, goes longer. All this is decided by the captain”, explain the experts.
At the Olympics, eight stones are thrown in each of the ten rounds. And in this game, Canada is the most successful nation (read below).
A Monaco, if the bobsleigh shone at the Beijing Olympics with a sublime sixth place, curling is still in its infancy. But the ideas are not lacking. “We are imagining a project in a parking lot to have two permanent curling rinks so that the members train all year round”, says Franck Nicolas, president of SCOM. Because, for the time being, curling is dependent on the ice rink, which will be dismantled on the evening of February 27.