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Curling is more difficult than the Olympians make it look

A group of curling students learn the art of sweeping the rock during the Albany Curling Club’s open house Saturday.

A group of curling students learn the art of sweeping the rock during the Albany Curling Club’s open house Saturday. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— While waiting for my group to be called onto the ice, I found 2013 Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School graduate Alex Soutiere sitting at one of the tables. He was there with his mom and her boyfriend, who wanted to try the sport after seeing it on TV. As it turned out, Soutiere – who wrestled in the 285-pound weight class last year – tried the sport once before.

“I curled when I was like 8 years old, I think,” said Soutiere, a two-time Section II Division II heavyweight champion. And what was Soutiere most concerned with? “Sliding. I’m watching the people (at the Olympics), and they’re doing the splits out there.”

I soon found myself doing the splits. When my group took to the ice, the first thing we learned was the proper sliding technique. One by one, we placed one foot in the “hack” – imagine a track runner’s starting blocks sticking out from the ice, only the feet are side by side and you only put one foot in it – and the other foot on a Teflon-coated rubber sole called the “slider.” Then, we crouched down and placed our hands on two 42-pound rocks. Once in position, we pushed off with our hack foot, extended that leg backward and glided forward with the slider leg still bent up in a crouch.

It took me a couple of tries to get the movement sort of figured out. I landed on both knees on the first attempt because I forgot to extend my slider foot as the instructor told me to do. The second and third attempts were shaky, but I held the correct form. The other four people in my group – a pair of local couples – had varying levels of success in learning the technique.

As soon as we gained a basic understanding sliding, we went to the next station to learn how to get the rock to curl. This was the easiest station of the five we visited, as far as I was concerned. The only thing we had to learn was which direction the handle on top of the rock had to be pointed to get it to turn the right direction. Point the handle at 10 o’clock to get the rock to go to the right, and point the handle at 2 o’clock to go left. We also learned the basic hand signals the “skip,” or team leader, uses to tell the “thrower” which way to send the rock.

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