Curling fans, rejoice! Another exciting season of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling kicks off this week with the Princess Auto Elite 10 Championship in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. We are counting down the days until we get to see the world’s top curlers in action, and we know many of you are counting down along with us.
For a curling fan, watching the sport in person for the first time is an unforgettable moment. As we gear up for Elite 10, we wanted to do something special for the first-timers out there.
Who better to give you a sense of the fun you’re in for than a real curling legend? We recently caught up with Kevin Martin, a four-time Brier champion and Olympic gold medalist, and asked him a few questions about what Elite 10 attendees can expect and about the sport itself. Read on to get the inside scoop!
Why should people watch curling in person? What makes it so exciting?
Curling is a terrific sport to watch live. The rocks are thrown much harder than it appears on television and the impact/collision of the stones during angle raises and doubles is always exciting.
Watching the sport live allows fans to enjoy, firsthand, the unique team chemistry that curling requires. The communication between thrower, sweepers and line caller, in an attempt to place the rock in its desired location, is certainly unique to this sport.
Tell us something that may surprise someone who has never attended a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event.
Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events are all about the best playing the best. Being in the crowd means you have multiple sheets of the world’s best making great shots continuously. In person, this can be quite mind bending as you attempt to watch all the sheets simultaneously. On television or live streaming, you just can’t get the same feeling of action overload.
What do you expect the athlete energy to be like during Elite 10?
The energy level at the Elite 10 Championship is considerably higher than at most curling events. Elite 10 is a match play event which means the teams will play very aggressively. Many rocks in play and high risk/high reward shots thrown almost every end. This style of play forces all competitors to stay focused and engaged during the entire match – every shot is crucial and therefore the players are much more excitable. The Elite 10 is extremely exciting for the crowd in the building.
What should fans know before attending their first curling tournament?
An important thing to remember when coming to a curling event for the first time is to make sure you meet some of the players. Curlers are very welcoming and always ready to chat with fans. Not all sports have a culture where the competitors feel it completely normal to meet and say hi to the people in the building.
What is the most common misconception about curling culture?
I think a common misconception about curling would be that the events do not have a lot of action going on during the games. At Grand Slam events, it is continuous action across all the sheets of play and in the stands.
The Pinty’s Pub at the end of the rink is the place to be, as many players come through. Plus, the view of the sheets is perfect.
What sort of physical demands does the sport place on athletes that people may be surprised to learn?
The act of “sweeping" in curling is one of the most gruelling activities in sport. Sweeping brings the players heart rates up to 180 beats per minute – as quick as any game-specific activities in any particular sport. Sweeping is incredibly hard to perform at a high level and requires very high core strength as well as incredibly strong quads.
Are there any Elite 10 rules that people may not know?
One rule that is unique to the Elite 10 is the “No Tick Zone”. This means that any rock touching the centre line cannot be touched until after the 5th stone of an end. This forces a much more aggressive style of play, especially in the last couple of ends.
Which teams or matchups are you most excited to see?
This curling season is the start of the new quadrennial. Teams rebuild every four years in an attempt to find the magic elixir that awards them with a trip the Olympics. This year will showcase many new teams that I am excited to watch. Some will succeed and become the new leaders of the game and some teams – that look good on paper – will fail. Both scenarios are fun to watch and gives fans great discussion fodder.
There are so many new, exciting teams to watch for. The Team Kevin Koe rebuild, Team Jennifer Jones without Jill Officer, The McEwen/Carruthers partnership, and Team Chelsea Carey with a whole new look are just some that I will be paying attention to.
Do you have any predictions about the teams or outcomes?
The Elite 10 is the first Grand Slam event of the season and therefore championship predictions are very difficult. Which new teams will find the chemistry and accuracy needed to succeed and which ones will struggle? Only time on the ice will tell us that. The arena in Chatham is the location where this will become clear.
Any final words, Kevin?
See you at the Elite 10!
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Kevin!