by Song Cong, Songjiang Bao
Professor Xu Xiaoming at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics in Songjiang is heading for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. He is the former captain of the Chinese men’s national curling team and will join the games as a technical official.
Curling, also called “chess on ice,” requires both physical stamina and intelligence. The sport originated in Scotland. Two teams of players, four on each side, slide stones across the ice, making them stop as close as possible to the “house” in the target zone to score. Each curler has two throws. Points are scored for the stones closest to the centre of the house. At the end of the game, the team with the highest score wins.
Olympic curling requires the accuracy of shooting matches, Xu says. After a player releases the stone, the stone slides across the ice in a curving line for more than 30 meters before hitting other stones. For Olympic players, the collision point of two stones must be narrowed down to within a centimeter.
The stones are made of granite. According to Xu, the bottom of the stone is curved so that it makes less contact with the surface, which allows it to slide smoothly. “Tiny drops of water will be sprayed onto the ice surface before matches begin. They freeze into ice pellets and cut down the surface contact to two square centimeters, reducing friction when the stone slides.”
Xu also explained that the stones used in international games cost as much as 10,000 yuan each (USD 1,575) while a whole set of equipment costs more than 100,000 yuan (USD 15,750).
The best granite for making curling stones comes from only two places in Scotland. The granite is mica-free. This prevents the stones from cracking when they collide, even at low temperatures.
The production of curling stones is laborious as they need to be polished by hand. It takes five skilled workers up to three days to make just one stone. There are only three cutting-edge curling stone manufacturers worldwide.
“Curling stones of this quality can last for ten years or even decades in games,” says Xu.
Rewritten into English by Zu Pengpeng, Shanghai International Studies University