Thursday 23 February 2017
Women’s influence on curling has been well documented since the early 20th century and has only continued to grow along with the sport itself.
The CPT World Women’s Curling Championship 2017 taking place in Beijing, China from 18 to 26 of March will be a continuation of this strong tradition, and the opportunity to see curling grow in Asia.
Curling will receive continued Asian exposure in the next five years. The next two Winter Olympics will be in Asia: first in Gangneung, Republic of Korea in 2018 and then in Beijng, China in 2022.
However, Asia isn’t where the sport first spread.
Born in Scotland at Paisley Abbey, curling was exported by Scottish immigrants to Canada and USA.
“We always say that it was really Scottish settlers that took our sport with them,” said Bob Cowan, former editor of the Scottish Curler magazine. He currently runs the Curling History blog, rife with stories from the sport’s development.
“The governing body in the States is the second oldest in the world,” he said, “after the Scottish one.”
It was formed just after the American Civil War.
It isn’t certain if women were bonafide members of local curling clubs right at this time, but Cowan’s research on Curling History indicates that by 1907 there was a curling club in England — the Buxton Curling Club, which became affiliated with the Royal Caledonian Curling Club — that boasted at least eight women on its roster.
A postcard sent from the club in 1909 clearly depicts mixed play.
At a time when women were struggling for equality — unable to vote or enter the workforce, there was one thing they could do just like men – curl!
The postcard also shows they did it in heels.
The inclusion of women was also noted across the pond in Canada where in 1903 a visiting team from Scotland played a team of Canadian women in Quebec and lost.
The skip of the Scottish team, John Kerr, wrote about the match in his 1904 book Curling in Canada and the United States in which he said of the ladies, "It was most refreshing to see the dexterity of the lady curlers, and the enthusiastic way in which they entered into the game.”
He also mentioned their sweeping was a lesson for everyone.
Now, with curling being one of the fastest growing winter sport in the world, more women than ever are taking part. The CPT World Women’s Curling Championship 2017 in Beijing, China will showcase just how far women have come since curling in heels and beating the Scottish men.
Will their sweeping still be a lesson for everyone? You’ll have to watch to see for yourself – And, if you can’t be in China you can watch the event live on TV, www.worldcurling.org/broadcast, for more information.
The competition is also the last chance for Olympic Qualification Points to be earned for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
It’s also an important precursor to a first for China — the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Those Games will be the first time a city has hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
“The Summer Olympics were absolutely huge,” said Dr. Susan Brownell, an expert in Chinese sport and author of Beijing’s Games: What the Olympics Mean to China. “That was called China’s 100 year dream.”
She said the successful Winter Games bid likely came about largely because of China’s current president, Xi Jinping, and his love of sport.
“The current president was the head of the leadership small group that was the pinnacle of command for the Beijing Olympic Games,” she said over the phone, referring to the Summer Games. “He is a sports fan. He probably really does believe that it’s good for China to develop sports at all levels.”
Beijing’s love of sport allows for sport in general and curling specifically to do what it does best: people-to-people diplomacy.
Just like women were gaining equality with men on the ice before the laws of the land granted them the same thing, so too can sporting events that bring together women from nations around the globe foster understanding.
“It seems like everyone agrees it’s important,” Brownell said of the people-to-people diplomacy approach, “one reason is it bypasses government so it brings people together and it gets around the complicated relationships governments have with each other. Sport is one of the main ways that can be accomplished.”
To engage with the WCF on social media in the build to the CPT World Women’s Curling Championship 2017 and 2018 Olympic Winter Games [8-25 February] follow it on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags when posting: #WWCC2017 #curling #Roadto2018
by Jolene Latimer, feature writer