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What is curling? Rules, scoring, how to win Olympic curling at 2022 Beijing Winter Games

With the NHL players back in North America, the best team sport on ice gets center stage in Beijing. Here’s your guide from the hack to the house.

John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, Chris Plys and John Shuster of the United States and coach Sean Beighton pose after winning Game 3 of the US Olympic Team Trials to advance to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing at Baxter Arena on November 21, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It looks so simple. Like the shuffleboard you’d play with your Nana at any retirement home, but on ice. But there might not be a sport with more math, angles, pressure, and teamwork needed than curling.

Before you read all these words, there is a much more entertaining way to learn the game available here. This gives you all the basics in a quality bite-sized format.

But if you’re looking for a few more basics in text format, here you go. Curling terms in italics.

  • All the stones from a team that are in the house (the bullseye painted on the ice), and closer to the button (the tiny mark in the center of the house) than their opponent, score one point.
  • The team with the hammer (scheduled to throw the last rock of the end) has a big advantage. If neither team scores, the team that had the hammer in the last end keeps it. So you’ll often see the team with the hammer intentionally clear the house of all stones so they can start over and try to score more than one point.
  • In mixed doubles curling teams consist of two players; one male and one female, and you only throw five stones in an end instead of eight. A player of either gender throws the first stone and the fifth stone, while their partner throws the second, third, and fourth stone.
  • In men’s and women’s curling, each player throws two stones: The lead, second, third, and skip (captain) in order. The lead and second mostly set up the end with guards and strategically-placed rocks. The third does a bit of defense and a bit of offense. The skip is always either trying to score, or keep the other team from scoring.
  • Mixed doubles curling in the Olympics is eight ends. Men’s and women’s curling is 10 ends. If there’s a tie, we go to overtime.
  • There’s a total of 10 teams in all three Olympic competitions. Only Canadians aren’t allowed to play both mixed doubles and for the team of their gender. Team USA has both their thirds playing together in mixed doubles.

Got more questions? Can we recommend a tweet at the terrific Rocks Across The Pond podcast, who goes by @curlingpodcast on Twitter? Or just follow along there during the events. They’re terrific at presenting the game for both beginners and experts.