Curling, a history

The most widely held view is that curling originated in Scotland, however, some believe it could have been brought into the country by Flemish migrants in the 16th century, even though no Flemish documents have been found to support that view. 

While some historians believe a ‘curling’ stone, inscribed with the date 1511, that was uncovered when an old pond at Dunblane, Scotland was drained, is proof that Scottish curling is older than the Flemish game, others believe the inscription to be from a considerably later date and that it is a fake. 

The earliest known written reference dates from February 1541, when notary John McQuhin wrote about a challenge, between John Sclater, a monk at Paisley Abbey, and Gavin Hamilton, a relative of the abbot, which involved throwing a stone along the ice three times. 

The 1565 paintings, ‘Hunters in the snow’ and ‘Winter landscape with skaters and bird trap’, by Flemish painter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, both depict what appear to be several people playing a game that looks similar to curling. 

The word ‘curling’ did not appear until 1638 in the poem, ‘Muses Threnodie, or Mirthfull Mourning, on the death of Master Gall’ by Henry Adamson. The poem, an obituary to Perth merchant, James Gall, describes objects he owned, including curling stones. 

By the 1830s, curling, in different forms, had become very popular in Scotland. The most widely adopted form involved seven, eight, or nine curlers, delivering one stone each, while in Kilmarnock and around Edinburgh the usual form was four players, delivering two stones each.

Curling, a competitive sport 

The Grand Caledonian Curling Club, founded in Edinburgh in 1838, drew up rules for the form of four players, each throwing two stones, which were adopted as the “Rules in Curling”. Following a demonstration to Queen Victoria, on the polished ballroom floor of Scone Palace in 1842, the club was granted a royal charter in 1843 and became the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

The International Curling Federation was founded in 1966 and in 1991 changed its’ name to the World Curling Federation.

Although international curling events took place in Europe and North America in the 19th century, the first official international competition for men’s teams was the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924. Curling was dropped until 1932 in Lake Placid, when it was re-introduced as a demonstration sport. It continued to appear as a demonstration sport, under the German name of “Eisschiessen”, at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936 and Innsbruck in 1964, then as curling at Calgary in 1988 and Albertville in 1992 with both men’s and women’s events.

It became a full medal sport at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.

How wheelchair curling has evolved

Wheelchair curling started in the 1990s and was included in the 2000 World Handi Ski Championship in Crans Montana Switzerland. Switzerland and Sweden were the only countries represented, with two teams from Switzerland and one from Sweden. 

This was followed by a workshop where it was decided that wheelchair curling should be as close to the able-bodied sport, allowing the rules to be formulated. 

In 2001 the first International Wheelchair Curling Bonspiel took place in Sursee Switzerland and was followed in 2002 by the first World Wheelchair Championship.

Wheelchair Curling, a Paralympic event

The International Paralympic Committee granted official medal status to Wheelchair Curling for mixed gender teams in March 2002 and it was introduced in the 2006 Torino Winter Paralympic Games. 

Wheelchair Curling at the Winter Paralympic Games

  • 2006 – Torino (Turin), Italy - 1 event, 8 countries and 40 athletes (29 men and 11 women) participated. 
  • 2010 – Vancouver, Canada - 1 event, 10 countries and 50 athletes (35 men and 15 women) participated. 
  • 2014 – Sochi, Russia - 1 event, 10 countries and 50 athletes (31 men and 19 women) participated.

British wheelchair curling medal winners

  • 2006 – Torino (Turin), Italy.
    Great Britain (Ken Dickson, Frank Duffy, Tom Killin, Angie Malone, Michael McCreadie) – silver in Mixed Tournament. 
  • 2010 – Vancouver, Canada.
    No medal.
  • 2014 – Sochi, Russia.
    Great Britain (Gregor Ewan, Jim Gault, Angie Malone, Bob MacPherson, Aileen Neilson) – bronze in Mixed.

Photos from the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games

Images courtesy of British Curling

Rules of curling

Male and female athletes who are physically impaired in the lower half of their body, due to spinal-cord injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and double-leg amputation qualify to compete. They usually use a wheelchair for daily mobility. 

The sport is governed by rules of the World Curling Federation (WCF), with one significant modification, sweeping (brushing the ice in front of the stone to change its direction) is not allowed. 

Curling stones are made of smooth granite and must have a maximum circumference of 91.44cm and a height of at least 11.43cm. The weight, including the handle and bolt, must be between 17.24 kg and 19.96kgs. Traditionally, the granite comes from the island of Ailsa Craig off the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

Each team has a set of eight stones with the same colour handle and visible markings which allow each stone to be individually identified.

The stones must be delivered from a stationary wheelchair, the athletes’ feet must not touch the ice and the wheels of the chair must be in contact with the ice.

The stone can be delivered by either a conventional arm/hand release or by using a delivery stick (a stick with a bracket that fits over the handle on the stone) which meets the WCF Wheelchair Curling Policy Delivery Stick Standards.  

Games are played between two teams, over eight ends. 

The teams of four players, must be mixed and there must always be a female athlete on the ice. 

Before each game starts both teams state who will be the skip (captain) and vice-skip (vice-captain) and the sequence in which the players will participate. 

Players slide the stones across the ice, aiming for a target, known as the house, which consists of four concentric circles. The teams take it in turns to deliver the stones until each competitor has delivered two stones. 

Each competitor attempts to get their stone closer to the centre of the ‘house’ than their opponents. A point for each of the eight ends is won by the team with the most stones closest to the centre of the house. A ninth, decider, end is played if there is a tie.

Governing bodies

British Curling is the UK national governing body, you can find out more on their website here British Curling.

Regional clubs

England

https://www.curlingengland.com/clubs/
https://englishcurling.wordpress.com/ 

Scotland

http://www.trycurling.com/
http://www.scottishwheelchaircurlingassociation.co.uk/index.html

Wales

http://www.welshcurling.org.uk/ 

Northern Ireland

http://www.irish-curling.org/about-ica/current-status-of-curling-in-ireland/

References

https://www.paralympic.org/wheelchair-curling
https://paralympics.org.uk/sports/wheelchair-curling
https://parasport.org.uk/play-sport/sports-a-z/wheelchair-curling 
http://www.worldcurling.org/
http://www.worldcurling.org/about-wheelchair-curling 
https://www.britannica.com/sports/curling
https://www.olympic.org/curling-equipment-and-history
https://www.scottishcurling.org/curling-history/history-of-the-game/
http://www.smithartgalleryandmuseum.co.uk/
https://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2016/02/15/613/