With the 2010 Winter Olympics looming Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver, you're no doubt kicking yourself for failing to get up out of your recliner and set off in pursuit of your own deferred Olympic ambitions. Why be so hard on yourself? Your friends here at TheDailyPage.com stand ready to kick you hard enough (metaphorically speaking) to launch you all the way to the Madison Curling Club in McFarland.
Curling is to the Winter Olympics what badminton and table tennis are to the summer games: more demanding, complex and deserving of your respect than a superficial glance might suggest. Though not as explosive as other winter sports, curling calls for balance, physical discipline, depth perception, strategy, at least a modest command of geometry and sufficient skill to deliver curling's 42-pound stones to the house (curling term for that big target painted in the ice). It can place a surprising load on obscure muscle groups you might never otherwise use. And the civilized pace of competition generates an exquisite kind of excitement built on anticipation and fundamental physics.
The closest portal to the sport is the aforementioned Madison Curling Club. Located at 4802 Marsh Rd. in McFarland, it has produced a steady stream of Olympic curlers over the years including three who are Vancouver-bound next month.
The venerable club has scheduled a beginner clinic for 9 a.m.-noon Sunday, Jan. 24, tailored to people with some curling experience or familiarity. Club volunteer Lori Karst says absolute first-timers can show up an hour earlier to get a head start on familiarizing themselves with the basics. "For the uninitiated, it's a ton all at once," she explains. "You can curl for 100 years and not learn all there is to know."
To protect the ice, participants should bring a clean pair of shoes to change into, Karst notes, adding that tennis shoes are a good choice. Dressing in layers and loose pants is also advisable, she says, due to some of the dynamic lunging positions involved in curling.
A second, less formal opportunity to try the sport comes during the club's post-Olympic open house from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, March 13, Karst adds. And the club typically opens its season with a series of clinics and open houses every October.
For more timid curling aspirants, a spectator's first-hand introduction to the sport presents itself Feb. 20-27, when the Madison Curling Club hosts 20 teams from across the country for the sixth annual USA Curling Club National Championship at its McFarland facility.
For more information about all these events, along with phone and email contact points and a basic primer on the sport's rules, visit the club's website.