Tuesday, January 1, 2002 Updated: January 2, 7:06 PM ET
By ESPN.com news services
FROM START TO FINISH
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Olympic competition dates: Feb. 11-18, Feb. 20-22 Venue: The Ice Sheet, Ogden, Utah
The outlook Men: The skip is the key player in curling and Salt Lake
City will attract some of the best, including Peter Lindholm of
Sweden, winner of two world championships, Switzerland's Markus
Eggler and Greg McAulay, who led Canada to the 2000 world
championship. Brothers Andreas and Christof Schwaller lead
defending gold medalist Switzerland.
Women: Dordi Norby of Norway has a record 77 victories in world
competition and is one of only three skips to win back-to-back
world championships. Four-time world champion Elisabeth Gustafson
leads Sweden in the women's competition, and the U.S. team is led
by national champion Kari Erickson
The finer points
Curling became an offical sport at the Nagano Games.
Each team consists of four players: the lead, the second, the third or vice-skip and the skip (team captain). Each player, alternating with the opposing team, delivers two 42-pound granite stones toward the house, a circle with a diameter of 12 feet. The object is to place the stone close to the center of the house.
After each end of 16 stones, the team with the stone closest to the center wins. Points are added for each stone between the tee and the opposing team's nearest stone. The winning team plays first in the next end. Games are 10 ends and last about two and a half hours. The team with the highest total score wins.
The skip directs the delivery while another player releases the stone, with a characteristic spin, or "curl," which gives Curling its name. Any stone gliding farther than the back line behind the house is out-of-bounds.
Two sweepers use brooms on the ice in front of the moving stone to control momentum and direction, maneuvering the stone to where the skip has indicated.
The free guard zone rule was introduced in 1991 to increase the importance of skill and strategy. According to the rule, players are allowed to bump -- but not knock out -- the first four rocks of a given end if they come to rest between the hog line and the tee line, excluding the house. Any rock touching the tee line outside the house or biting (touching the edge) of the 12-foot ring at the front of the house is in the free guard zone and may not be taken out.
The men's and the women's tournaments will consist of 10 teams each, competing in a round-robin tournament. During this preliminary series, each team will play against each of the other teams. Based on the results of the round robin, semifinals will be held on Feb. 21. The women's final round and bronze medal game will be on Feb. 21 and the men's on Feb. 22.