February 11, 2014
Russia’s women, long famous in traditional Olympic sports from speed- to figure-skating, are now taking to curling – the Roaring Game first played by Scotsmen in kilts on frozen lochs – in a big way. Already in Sochi, the women of Team Russia have beaten the US 9:7 and Denmark 7:4.
Anna Sidorova, the skip of Russia women's curling team, says curling – long a Cinderella sport in Russia – is now beginning to take off. Since their Olympic debut in Salt Lake City in 2002, the women’s team has been far more successful than the men’s, with Russia’s women twice winning the European Championships.
In an interview with RT, Sidorova explains why she doesn’t want people to brand her team “floor-sweepers," their brooms “mops” and their stones “balls.”
She is adamant in explaining to Russian sports fans that curling is no game of broom-sweeping for housewives, but a demanding physical sport that requires total concentration for hours at a time.
“There was a study which showed that our girls sweep two to three kilometers in one game,” says Sidorova. “The sheet is 45 meters long, and the energy you expend sweeping this distance equals the energy runners use in a 100-metre dash.”
And given that curlers may have three or sometimes even four matches in a day, that’s a lot of kilometers.
Sidorova also revealed the secrets of the sport, sometimes also called “Chess on Ice” for its deep strategy, which seems so calm at first sight.
The most difficult job in curling, she says, is sweeping – as it involves all the muscles in your body.
“If you don’t believe me, take a regular mop or a broom and try sweeping hard for 45 meters. It’s very tough,” says Sidorova.
The tricky thing about the Roaring Game is that you need to listen to the other curlers on your team, as “sometimes you should sweep and sometimes not. This means you have to stay focused. It’s really hard to play like that for three hours, staying focused all the time,” adds the skip.
Another tricky point is moving an almost 20-kilo stone – definitely not just “a ball” – made of granite towards a circular target area called “the house.” According to Sidorova, the main thing about this stone is not lifting it, as it skates along the ice but keeping the granite rock in balance.
“You have to focus on the rock. You can’t be distracted by trying to stay on your feet,” says Sidorova.
Curling is less formal than gymnastics or figure skating, she says, where “there is a lot of discipline.” The atmosphere at the curling academy is “much more casual and relaxed,” says Sidorova, who was a dedicated figure skater before turning to curling.
“At practice sessions, I saw girls in casual clothes, with casual hairdos. In figure skating, this would be unthinkable,” adds Sidorova who also tried her hand at modeling as a teenager.
“I got into a modeling academy for teenagers but after a few classes I realized I liked sport better,” says Sidorova, adding that since then she had never thought about modeling as she “wanted to exercise, practice and win.”
Sidorova remembers she even thought, “This is not sport at all,” after seeing all the girls “sweeping the ice with brooms, throwing rocks and shouting at each other.” But then when she learned more about the sport, she took to it and now hopes to win a medal for Russia’s team.
Curling, which was first invented by the Scots in the 16th century, took its place as a full Olympic sport in the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. It currently includes men's and women's tournaments.
During the Sochi Olympics, the curling teams will compete for 12 days straight, with the finals held over two days, on February 20-21.
Sidorova has high hopes that her team with be on the podium then, and has equally big ambitions about the future popularity of curling in her country.
“We want people in Russia …to recognize our sport as a fully-fledged discipline,” says Sidorova. “We don’t want to hear that it’s a sport for housewives.”