Dale... The Curling Guru

As I pulled up to the Olympic Oval I noticed that there were only about 20 cars in the parking lot. I parked and met my co-workers just outside the door. We all walked in together and met Steve, the marketing director for the Oval, who was standing near the main entrance waiting for us to arrive. He asked me "Are you Sarah?” "yes" I replied. He then introduced himself to all of the 8 people that were there (including myself) and led us into the ice rink. When we walked into the rink that hosted the speed skating events for the 2002 Olympics, I was taken aback. I didn't realize how ginormous this place was. It didn't look this big from the outside. Just as we started walking over to where we would be playing our Curling game, Carl, one of my co-workers said to me in a dry tone "I didn't think this place would be so small."

They had just cleared the speed skating ice last week, so we didn't get to see it, but also didn't have to slip and slide over it to get to the rink where we would be learning our Curling techniques. They have the inside of the rink all sectioned off. The ring on the outside is a running track with four lanes, and then you have the slab of concrete that the speed skating ice is frozen over. On the inside of the ring of concrete, there are two ice rinks, both large enough to have a hockey or soccer game (for kids, I think). The rink on the right had Astroturf on it with nets set up for some sort of soccer practice and the other (on the left) was all ready for our Curling adventure.

As we approached the ice rink, I noticed this older man wearing black jogging pants, a teal blue sweat shirt with a plaid scarf poking out of the top, brown leather shoes and a Scottish hat (similar to the one shown here) that was the same color as his sweatshirt. He also was dawning a goatee and had a CTR ring on his right thumb. He was taking all the Curling supplies and placing them on the ice. The inventory: 16 Curling stones; 8 yellow; 8 red, some funky shoe thingies that looked super slick on the bottom and 8 Curling scrubbers. Steve took the opportunity to introduce us to our teacher, Dale. We said our how-do-you-do's and then he got right down to business. "First off" Dale said, "We are going to do some stretching. I want you put your legs shoulder width apart and just act like you are going to sit down. Then bring your hands together but only touch the tips of your fingers and push them together." Everyone started to do their squats while pressing their fingers together. "You can raise your hands up above your head and bring them back down low as well. This will help stretch your arms too." Already I felt like a total retard and we hadn't even got on the ice yet.

After we did some more stretching Dale instructed us "Wipe your feet before coming onto the ice!” This was very important. You must wipe your feet on the rug before stepping on the ice. Dale then told us about the Curling stones, where they are made (in Scotland and Whales) and a little bit about how they are made. He said that there were only four sets of stones made for the 2002 Olympics and he was letting us use two of those sets learn on. "WOW!" I thought, "He must think we are exceptional just by the look of us or we wouldn't be learning how to Curl with Olympic stones!?!" He then went on to explain that each stone costs about $1200 and if even a speck of dirt gets underneath it, it could ruin the stone and then they would have to replace it. OUCH! Thus the "WIPE YOUR FEET BEFORE COMING ONTO THE ICE!" statement.

When we got onto the ice we each were given one of the scrubbers. You know how people are, even adults, of course right when you are given something that you think looks fun to play with... you play with it. Carl did this and I really wanted to join in, but didn't want to step out of line right when I got on the ice, so I resisted the urge. Dale then started to instruct us on how to move across the ice. It is kind of like doing sachets, only you shouldn't lift your feet off the ice. You just glide. "Oh!" I thought, "That is easy enough." So we all started to move across the ice. Now I haven't taken a dance class in like 10 years. I felt like an idiot. But, the good thing was that all of my co-workers were right there with me. It actually got easier the more we did it. Turns out... that is the easy part. Next we had to scrub the ice while doing our sachets across the ice. More difficult.

Dale then gathered us together and said that we were going to learn how to send a stone across the ice... you have to plant your foot (since I am left handed, it was my right foot) on this plastic thing that is melted to the ice to keep your foot in place and the other foot rests on the shoe thingies with the slick bottom. Turns out that the slick bottom is silicone and boy-o-boy are they ever slick. Dale then grabs a stone by each hand and plants his right foot on the plastic guy while his other foot is on the silicone guy (he is left handed too). He crouches down and kicks off with his right foot then just sails across the ice. "I can do that!" I thought, "My turn!"

I walk over to the plastic thing and rest my foot on it to get grounded. Then I place my left foot on the silicone guy and my foot starts to slip out from underneath me. I stand firm on my right foot and bring my left foot close to my side. I crouch down, push off and think, "Hey, I am doing pretty good. No, wait a minute... I am putting too much weight on the stones!" Just when I realize this, my foot slips out from underneath me and I find my self sliding, head first, spread eagle on the ice. Everyone bursts into laughter. I was the first to biff it, great. I got better the more I did it and by the end of that exercise I felt pretty good about playing a full on game.

We teamed off and played two rounds... my team got creamed! I guess I wasn't as good as I thought. Or, the other team was just better... but none of them did a spread eagle on the ice! The thing that got me though was when we were playing the two rounds. One person would push off from the plastic thing and twist that stone sucker down the ice, then two other people would then have to follow the stone and scrub the ice in front of it to melt the ice so the stone would either go a direction you wanted it to or travel farther. When whoever it was, was on the ice scrubbing for all they were worth, Dale was yelling at the top of his lungs "SCRUB! SCRUB! SCRUB!" or "HARDER! HARDER!" or "UP! UP! UP! UP! UP!" I think he said up the most though. Dale... he's my new hero.

Overall, I had a grand'ol time. I definitely have a greater appreciation for Curling and might even watch it next winter Olympics. We'll see. But from now on, when ever I want results from any of my co-workers... or just a good chuckle, I'm going to yell "UP!" or "HARDER!" or "SCRUB!" At the top of my lungs. Or maybe all three.


Lollygagger said...

Let's train! Let's have a team for 2010!

Saroo said...

I'll totally train with you! We could kick some serious Curling arce! Par les Olympics!?!

Saroo said...

I meant... Par les vous Olympics!