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Curling’s not only for Canadians

Curling is like "chess on ice," says club co-founder Philip Harris (in black). Photo: Michael Richmond

Admit it. You’re one of those people who laughed when curling became an Olympic sport. Sure, you may be justified in thinking that it looks too easy — that any “sport” that requires sweeping ice and yelling at rocks can only be taken seriously if you’re from Canada or Wisconsin or you’re well into your cups.

But try curling and you’ll be singing a different tune, or at least your muscles will, says DU curling club co-founder and President Philip Harris, a sophomore computer science major. “Curling is really misunderstood because it does look so easy,” he says. “It really works your body.”

Just try stepping out onto ice so slick it will lay you out flat even without the Teflon-coated shoe that curlers wear to slide. Then, while you balance on one leg bent at a 90-degree angle, push a 44-pound stone 146 feet down the ice as you glide forward ever so gently. No, don’t put your weight on the stone, and don’t drag that back leg — use it like a rudder to direct the precise delivery of your stone into the “house.”

Harris likens curling to “chess on ice,” and strategy is indeed a key component of the sport. “I like the problem solving and enjoy the intellectual aspects,” he says.

“I can summarize the appeal of the game in three words: sportsmanship, strategy and community,” adds club co-founder Billy Reynolds, a sophomore history major.

This appeal — discovered just last spring when the two tried curling after seeing it in the Olympics — led Harris and Reynolds to start the DU club, which has already attracted some 20 members in its first season.

Offered through the Department of Recreation’s Club Sports program, DU’s curling club is open to all DU students, faculty and full-time staff members, who can drop in to a weekly practice for a single lesson or join regular league play against the Broadmoor Curling Club in Colorado Springs — the only other active curling club on the Front Range. The club welcomes curlers of all ages or ability levels, including disabled curlers.

Curling got its humble start in the 16th century when bored Scottish farmers wiled away the winter hours by sliding river rocks for sport. It’s come a long way since. In the U.S. today there are 140 curling clubs in 32 states, and worldwide there are an estimated 1.5 million curlers in 46 nations (1.2 million in Canada alone), according to the U.S. Curling Association.

In March, DU’s club will field two teams at the national collegiate curling tournament. For now, they’re focusing on fundraising, as the club isn’t eligible for University funding until it completes a successful inaugural year.

Club members also are enjoying their status as minor celebrities on a campus that has just discovered what so many already knew.

Curling rocks.

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