OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The U.S. Olympic Curling trials begin Friday, Nov. 12 at Baxter Arena. For nine days, 12 teams which are made up of six women's teams and six men's teams will compete for a spot in Beijing.
The sport has grown in recent years, attracting even those who are not curlers.
"I feel like as a fan, once it’s on TV, you're glued to it and to see it in person, it's just so much better. The strategy...these are elite athletes that do this. It’s really fun to watch, you find yourself getting into it even if you don’t know anything about it," Josh Todd, President of Omaha Sports Commission said.
"Compared to a lot of North American sports, it's very different. You’re sweeping on the surface of the field of play rather than affecting the actual object — the rock — so it’s very different from a lot of sports," Nick Ridder, President of the Aksarben Curling Club said. "With the Olympics coming you get a lot of eyeballs on it every four years. We've seen tremendous growth over the past two decades we’ve been in the Olympics and it’s not slowing down, especially in the United States."
The sport takes a tremendous amount of mental and physical ability. Athletes analyze the smallest details to make sure the stones land in a strategic place.
"It takes years of practice of figuring out exactly what you need to do and sweep and get around things but the real trick is the stones don’t travel in a straight line so what you do is put stones up and you can hide other stones behind that stone. So there’s a lot of key details: where you’re going to put rocks, where you’re going to put rocks behind or in relation to those rocks. It takes years of practice. A lot of people call it chess on ice for a reason," Ridder said.
During the Olympic Trials, athletes will analyze details from the wear of the ice, to the curve of the stone and the humidity. And fans and even those who may not have ever seen it before, will be able to watch it in person here in Omaha.
"It’s just fun to stretch your body down on the ice like that and throw the stone down to the other house. It’s really fun if you sit on the ends of the ice, you can see the stone curl so there’s science to it. They sweep it to make it move faster. It’s a fascinating sport and a lot goes into it, a lot more than people think when you just watch it on TV," Todd said.
To get tickets to the events, visit the Omaha Sports Commission's website.