Sunday, November 27, 2005

A New World Record in Curling?

Who would think to do this [reg. req'd, h/t to Brian Ferguson]? Who would think to document it? And how long would it take?

Camille Villeneuve has come as close as anyone to seeing it all in curling.

The 77-year-old from Chicoutimi, Que., is attempting to earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by curling in the most clubs.

As of Monday and stops at the Bushell Park Curling Club and Hillcrest Sports Centre, his total was 576.

That's 527 clubs from coast-to-coast, north-to-south in Canada, along with 19 rinks in Scotland and 30 in the U.S.
He expects to have visited and played at 610 different clubs before Christmas. Imagine trying to set up games in all those clubs.

At the same time, what a great way to visit so many different places in Canada, Scotland, and the U.S.and to meet so many people.

Friday, November 25, 2005

New Technology
and Brit Brushing

Alan Adamson's most recent posting about the selection of the British Olympic curling team was followed up in a comment that

The Brits, despite being Olympic champions, are not really top contenders...

It will be fascinating to see what effect their new brushing technology and studies will have on their game.

Britain's Olympic curlers are using state-of-the art brooms to give themselves an edge as they prepare to defend their Winter Games gold. Loaded with sensors and a memory card, the 'sweep ergometer' allows curlers to measure how well they are performing one of the game's crucial tasks.
My prediction is that this new technology will not give them much of an edge at all. It would not take very many ends for some reasonably bright person (e.g., my co-blogger)(i.e., and probably not someone from the Canadian Curling Association) to figure out what the Brits have learned from their technology and to apply it themselves.

For example, suppose the monitor and feedback say (I doubt this would happen -- it is just an example) that the most efficient brushing for someone who is small and light is to brush at a 42-degree angle to the desired path of the stone with long light strokes, then how long do you think it would be before other curlers and the announcers and sports journalists discover this? This information is not something that can be kept secret. The response time from rivals is cheap and quick. In terms of the prisoners' dilemma framework, both the expected detection lag and the expected retaliation lag are short.

While I am delighted that people are doing this type of kinesiological research, and I will surely find the results (or lack thereof) interesting, spending the money and the time on something like this is not likely to give the Brit curlers much of a competitive edge for very long, if at all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A British Lookahead to the Olympics

Steve Cram, no stranger to the Olympic selection process, though I am not sure about his calendar appearances, has an entertaining article in the Guardian on curling.

He begins by looking back to the British curling victory in Salt Lake, and observes something it is hard to imagine:
Curling was briefly cool.
The article then moves on to the top issues in curling in Britain today and they will be no surprise to our readers.

Number one is of course "the calendar". Number two is the British Olympic selection policy.
The calendar is a departure from tradition for the sport as is the selection policy. Britain has been represented at all previous games by the team ranked highest at the time of selection. Martin's squad got the nod last time in the women's event ahead of Jackie Lockhart's team who went on to become world champions later that year. Both skips knew their players' games in intricate detail which was a huge factor in their success but that sense of teamwork and inter-dependency has been discarded for 2006.
Cram was an individual athlete himself, but understands the issue of the skip's knowledge of the team.
As Real Madrid might tell you, the best individuals do not always gel as a unit and the women's squad contains three potential skips where only one is required.
Which hits on another issue, that of clashing egos not totally sorted out.

Cram finishes by bringing the two themes together.
Whoever loses out will probably feel aggrieved and an offer to appear in next year's calendar is unlikely to provide much consolation.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Observations from a neophyte

The Vanastra Curling Club (in midwestern Ontario) began operations for the season a week and a half ago. This is just the second season of curling for my wife [Ms. Eclectic] and me, and I was petrified that I would not have any feel for the ice.

I have no idea why, but I'm curling just as well now as I was at the end of last season. I guess this means that curling is a bit like riding a bicycle -- once you learn, you don't forget. I hope that continues to be the case.
Our club installed new equipment to keep the ice cold. Our first time out, the ice seemed very slippery, despite the lack of much pebble, yet. But the next two times the ice was fine (Ms. Eclectic and I curl twice a week when I'm not off doing other stuff).

We both use push sticks (also known as "delivery aids"). Last year when we went for our first instructions on how to curl, we put on sliders, stepped onto the ice, got scared that we might fall, and decided that wearing grippers on both feet while using a push stick would be better for us, especially at our advanced ages and given our creaky knees. It turns out that about half the people we curl with late on Friday nights also use push sticks, and last Wednesday, three-quarters of the people there used them, so we're not alone. However, nobody at the early Friday evening draw uses a push stick!

Most people who use push sticks in our club use the club-provided sticks, often called "curling cues": metal poles with wire spiraled thing-a-ma-bobs at the end.

Ms. Eclectic uses an "Extender" with interchangeable heads: one is the hinged hook used to deliver the rock and the other is a broom head.

I prefer to have a brush with me after delivering a rock, so I can jump out and help sweep if necessary. Also, I don't like having to change the heads on the stick, as Ms. Eclectic does, or having to look for a broom or stick, depending on what I need. So I use the "Del- iverer" with a dual head: hook on one side and brush on the other.

But there are lots of other options (see here, for a list of others along with a helpful discussion of choosing and using a stick).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"The Women of Curling" Calendar

What effect do you think this will have on the popularity of curling?

Women's curling is sure to receive a lot more exposure this year, thanks to a new international calendar that features nude and scantily clad female curlers.

One of the stars of the calendar is

Lynsay Ryan of Kelowna, B.C., the daughter of two-time world champion skip and 2006 Olympic hopeful Pat Ryan.

Ryan, a 21-year-old student at Hamilton's McMaster University, found herself in July posing in a see-through sarong in the forests of Fussen, Germany.

“I sent him (her father) an e-mail,” Ryan said with a laugh. “I thought it might be better if he read about it and had time to think about it before he replied.”
And, of course, the calendar fits nicely with Colleen Jones' earlier suggestion that

I think the women are going to have to curl naked in order to get people out there.
I'm not kidding. You're going to have to hope for an Anna Kournikova to come along to really jazz it up.
[thanks to John Chilton for the pointer]

Update: In the Hack is dismayed by the concept.