The curling competition began at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Monday, perplexing and intriguing those unfamiliar with the sport.

What Is Curling?

Curling, a variation of shuffleboard that’s played on ice, only relatively recently became an Olympic sport. Its first introduction to the Games came in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Since then, the U.S. has only placed once – earning a bronze medal in the 2006.

During a game of curling, two teams of four set up on either side of the ice lane called a “sheet.” Each team will proceed to slide their 44-pound stones to the target on the other side of the lane. In the center of the target – or “house” – is the “button,” which is like a bull’s-eye. Throughout an “end,” each team throws 8 stones. There are 10 ends in a curling game.

The players on a curling team take up the following positions – the lead, the second, the vice and the skip. The skip is the brains of the quartet who calls the shots, while the lead is typically the least skilled thrower of the bunch. For any given throw, one player slides the stone and one directs from behind. By sweeping, the curlers can manage the speed and direction of the stone.

Points are awarded to a team for each stone that’s closer to the button than stones slid by their opponents. Whichever team has the stone closest to the button at the culmination of the 10 ends wins. More than anything, curling is a game of strategy.

– Chelsea Regan

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