Curling: chess on ice
When the United States won the gold medal in Men’s Curling at the 2018 Olympic games, the sport became more well-known, but Castle Pines native Alec Celecki got hooked on curling while watching the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when he was 11 years old. Celecki took a Learn-to-Curl class, then joined a league; now, at 25 years old, he is part of a competitive curling team with Olympic hopes.
Curling is played on pebbled ice with two teams of four players each. Granite stones, called rocks and weighing 44 pounds each, are pushed down the ice to a 12-foot bullseye called “the house” that is 150 feet away. Each team throws eight rocks; the team that gets the closest to the center of the bullseye after all the rocks are thrown scores the points. The stones are delivered with a predetermined rotation so they actually curl as they travel down the ice, thus the name curling.
Sometimes called “chess on ice,” curling involves strategy with plays designed to block opponents’ shots or knock out opposing stones. Brushing the ice in front of a stone with a curling broom can drastically affect the speed and direction of the shots. While players are listening to commands being yelled at them by their captain, they furiously sweep the ice with a broom, making sure to not touch any of the other stones on the ice with their feet or broom.
Celecki said the sport is physically demanding, which is clear when watching a bonspiel, or tournament. The deep, one-legged squat required while throwing “requires incredible balance,” Celecki stated.
Celecki and his team played at U.S. Nationals against Team USA and other top teams in the U.S. for the ability to represent Team USA at the World Curling Championships. They finished 7th in the USA and are looking at trying to make Nationals again next year and going a little further. Making trials for the 2026 Olympic Games in Italy is an exciting goal.
Celecki shared that in the curling community there is a social tradition called broomstacking, which comes from the old curling clubs that would stack brooms by the fire and have drinks after playing. “Win or lose, you always sit down and have a drink with the opposing team after a game and you talk about curling or not talk about curling and talk about life,” Celecki said. “You make friends from all walks of life and different life experiences.” Celecki added that members range in age from 8 to 88 at the club. His dad started curling last year.
“My favorite part of curling is the welcoming community. The teams we have played in Denver, across the U.S., and from all over the world are fun to play and socialize with,” Celecki said.
There are two dedicated curling facilities with Learn-to-Curl classes: The Denver Curling Club and Rock Creek Curling in Lafayette. To learn more, visit denvercurlingclub.com and rockcreekcurling.com.
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photos courtesy of Bob Weder