A Brief History of Curling at the Winter Olympics

Although its origins date back to 16th century Scotland, curling wasn’t perceived as a “legitimate” sport until the 19th century, when the Grand Caledonian Curling Club created its official rules. Today, the sport is played on an indoor sheet of ice 150 feet by 16.5 feet that features a three-ring circle known as a “house.” Teams of four compete against each other with each player throwing (actually pushing) two stones (large heavy discs with handles on top) into the house per end. There are 10 ends in a typical curling match. Teams are awarded one point for each of its stones that are closer to the “button” (the middle of the three-ring circle) than those stones thrown by the opposing team.

Curling was included as part of the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924. Great Britain won the first-ever Olympic curling gold in the men’s competition, while Sweden and France earned silver and bronze, respectively. There was no women’s competition in the 1924 Chamonix Games.

Despite its history, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) dropped curling from the Olympic program after 1924. It reintroduced curling as a demonstration sport at the 1932 Lake Placid Games. Curling was again contested as a demonstration sport in 1988 and 1992. The IOC approved its status as a medal sport with men’s and women’s events for the 1998 Nagano Games.

The Switzerland rink led by skip Patrick Hurlimann won gold in the men’s event at the 1998 Nagano Games. Switzerland finished tied with Canada for the best record at 7-2, and defeated Canada 9-3 in the gold medal game. Norway won the bronze with a 9-4 victory over the United States. Sandra Schmirler’s Canadian rink became the first group of women to win an Olympic curling gold medal following a 7-5 victory over Denmark in the final. Sweden defeated Great Britain to win the bronze medal.

Curling has since been contested at each of the following Winter Olympics, including the recently concluded Beijing 2022 Games. Canada and Sweden have been the most dominant nations, winning nine of the 15 gold medals awarded in men’s and women’s competition since the first event at the 1924 Chamonix Games. Canada also won the inaugural gold medal in the mixed doubles event at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

Niklas Edin’s Sweden rink is the most accomplished curling team in Olympic history. Edin led the rink to a gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Games and won a silver and bronze in 2018 and 2014, respectively. Agnes Knochenhauer and Oskar Eriksson have been part of each of those medal-winning teams. Eriksson, meanwhile, is the only curler in Olympic history with four medals, as he also won bronze in mixed doubles in Beijing.

Nine other curlers from Sweden have won multiple Olympic medals, while six Canadian curlers have also accomplished this feat. Others to win two Olympic curling medals include Eve Muirhead (Great Britain), Torger Nergard (Norway), and Mirjam Ott (Switzerland).

While Canada leads all nations with 12 curling medals, it hasn’t been as dominant in the past two Winter Olympics. The Canadian men and women won a medal at every Winter Olympics from 1998 to 2014. In the 2014 Sochi Games, Canada became the only nation to win gold in men’s and women’s curling. Since then, Canada has only claimed a gold in mixed doubles (2018) and bronze in the men’s event (2022).

In addition to its gold medal win in the men’s competition at the Beijing Games, Sweden won bronze in both the women’s and mixed doubles competitions. It now has 11 Olympic medals in curling. Great Britain defeated Japan in the women’s final, and Italy defeated Norway in the mixed doubles final.

Canada Defeats US in Latest Chapter of Olympic Women’s Hockey Rivalry

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Canada and the United States have met in the gold medal game at each of the seven Winter Olympics that women’s ice hockey has been contested, dating back to the 1998 Nagano Games. Canada, after losing to the US in the gold medal final at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and failing to reach the final of the 2019 World Championship, experienced a redemption of sorts as it defeated the US 3-2 in the final of the 2022 Beijing Games. The Canadian women have now won five of the seven Olympic gold medals in women’s ice hockey.

The US ended Canada’s run of four consecutive gold medals in 2018 with a 3-2 shootout victory. After another disappointing result the following year at the 2019 World Championships, Canadian general manager Gina Kingsbury distributed a clock to each player on the team with a countdown displaying the exact seconds until the start of the 2022 Beijing Games. Canada won the 2021 World Championships in August and concluded its redemption tour with a 3-2 victory over the US in Beijing to win its first Olympic gold medal since 2014.

Marie-Philip Poulin led the charge offensively for Canada, which had previously defeated the Americans in the round robin and outscored its opposition 57-10 through its first seven games of the tournament. Poulin scored two goals, including the game-winner, to cement her legacy as Canada’s “Captain Clutch.” Poulin has scored a combined seven goals through four Olympic finals. She scored the overtime winner against the US in 2014 and scored both of Canada’s goals in its 2-0 victory over the Americans in the 2010 Olympic final. She’s the only player (male or female) in Olympic history to score in four Olympic gold medal games.

Canada jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the gold medal game, but the Americans fought back to make it close and ultimately outshot Canada 40-21. Hilary Knight cut the US’ deficit to two goals with a short-handed goal in the second period and Amanda Kessel added a power-play goal with a dozen seconds left in the game to close the gap to one. Canadian goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens stopped 38 of the 40 shots she faced to earn the victory.

In addition to the impressive play of Poulin and Desbiens, Canada received contributions from players throughout its lineup. The team scored a record 57 goals in the tournament, surpassing their previous record of 44 in 2010. Sarah Nurse, the first Black woman to win an ice hockey Olympic gold medal, had one goal and one assist in the final and led all players in tournament scoring with 18 points. She now holds the record for most points in a single tournament.

Brianne Jenner, who played on a line with Poulin and Nurse, led all players in goals in the tournament with nine and was named MVP. Canadian defensive player Claire Thompson, meanwhile, scored three goals and added 10 assists to lead all defenders in scoring.

Canada reached the final after recording an 11-0 victory over Sweden and 10-3 win over Switzerland in the quarter-final and semifinal, respectively. The Americans scored 4-1 victories over both the Czech Republic and Finland to advance to the gold medal game. Finland defeated Switzerland 4-0 in the bronze medal game.

The Surprising Speed of Badminton Shuttles

While it may come as a surprise to some, the fastest racket sport in the world is not tennis or racquet ball, but badminton. In fact, the numbers are not even close. The top speed for a badminton shot belongs to Malaysian doubles specialist Tan Boon Heong, who hit a smash with his Yonex Nanoray Z-Speed that clocked in at 306.34 miles per hour.

By comparison, the fastest tennis serve ever recorded belongs to Australian Samuel Groth, who managed a 163-mile-per hour service delivery. However, Groth’s world record is somewhat dubious, as it was hit at a challenger event, where speed gun technology is not always reliable. The fastest serve recognized by the Association of Tennis Professionals belongs to American John Isner at 157.21 miles per hour. Sabine Lisicki, meanwhile, holds the record for fastest tennis shot in the women’s game, with a near 131-mile-per hour serve.

It should be noted that Heong’s smash was part of an experiment designed specifically to see how fast a shuttlecock could travel. That said, the top speed of a birdie in match play is still impressive. Denmark’s Mads Pieler Kolding, another doubles specialist, once connected on a 264.7-mile-per-hour smash. In women’s singles competition, the record for fastest smash belongs to Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon at 231.15 miles per hour.

Other racket sports, and sports in general, simply do not compare when it comes to ball speed. The fastest recorded shot in a ping pong match belongs to Lukasz Budner of Poland, at just over 72 miles per hour, while the fastest pitch by a professional baseball player was delivered by Aroldis Chapman at 105.07 miles per hour. The fastest hit in baseball is slightly higher, with New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Staton once driving a ball at 122.2 miles per hour.

To get a sense of how fast a 264- or 306-mile-per-hour smash is traveling, individuals should remember that the average car on an American freeway is traveling at between 65 and 75 miles per hour. Even professional race cars moving at speeds of more than 220 miles per hour lag behind the fastest badminton smashes.

The speeds of modern-day shuttlecocks can be attributed, in part, to the development of synthetic string materials like high-intensity nylon used in racquets. These strings have been designed to minimize stress and injury to player’s arms while providing a powerful, reliable hitting service. In the early days of the sport, strings were made from the stomach linings of animals such as cats and crows.

Surprisingly, shuttlecock innovations have not been as dramatic. All birdies used in official badminton tournaments are made from goose feathers. In fact, feathers are specifically sourced from a goose’s left wing. Taking feathers from the same wing allows manufacturers to better ensure consistent flight patterns, especially while traveling at speeds of several hundred miles per hour. Each birdie features 16 feathers fixed to a cork tip.

Some birdies are made of duck feathers, while others consist of synthetic materials. The Yonex Mavis 350 birdie, for example, is a popular model that utilizes nylon in place of real feathers.

These Five Golfers Have Won Every Major Championship

The PGA Tour season typically runs from September until the Tour Championship the following August and includes roughly 50 tournaments. While most tournaments carry first-place prizes of more than $1 million, none are considered as prestigious as the four major championships: the Masters Tournament, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and Open Championship, formerly known as the British Open.

Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Gene Sarazen are the only five golfers in history to win each of the four major championships. Nicklaus and Woods rank first and second, respectively, in all-time major championship victories, while Hogan and Player are tied for fourth with Walter Hagen. Sarazen is tied for seventh all-time with Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Harry Vardon.

An 18-time major championship winner, Nicklaus has won the Masters Tournament six times; the PGA Championship five times; the U.S. Open four times; and the British Open three times. He won his first major championship at the 1962 U.S. Open, following a playoff victory over Palmer. At 22 years old, he became the youngest U.S. Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923.

Nicklaus won the PGA Championship and Masters Tournament the following year and completed the career grand slam with a victory at the 1966 British Open. He won major championships spanning three decades, with his last victory occurring at the Masters Tournament in 1986. Nicklaus also finished as runner-up in 19 major championships and was among the top five finishers in a record 56 majors.

Woods, meanwhile, won his first major championship at the Masters Tournament in 1997 in dominant fashion. He scored the lowest four-round total (270) in tournament history, breaking the record of 271, which was previously shared by Nicklaus (1965) and Ray Floyd (1976). He also became the youngest champion in Masters history at 21 years old and set another 18 tournament records, many of which still stand.

Woods won his first of four PGA Championships in 1999 and completed the career grand slam the following year with victories at the U.S. Open and British Open. He won the 2008 U.S. Open and went 11 years without a major championship victory until winning the Masters for the fifth time in 2019. He now has 15 major championships.

Hogan and Player have each won nine major championships. Walter Hagen, who ranks third in all-time major victories, was never able to win the Masters to complete the career grand slam. Hogan achieved that distinction in 1953 with an especially impressive season: he won the U.S. Open, Masters, and British Open, becoming the first golfer to win at least three major championships in a single year. Player won his first major at the 1959 British Open and completed the career grand slam with a victory at the 1965 U.S. Open.

Sarazen is a seven-time major championship winner whom many credit with creating the sand wedge during the early 1930s. He won the PGA Championship and U.S. Open in 1922, but won only one major (the 1923 PGA Championship) over the next 10 years. Sarazen won the 1932 British Open and completed the grand slam by winning the Masters Tournament in 1935. He was the first golfer to achieve this rare feat.

Assessing River Difficulty for Canoers and Kayakers

Kayaking on the lake, boat alone Free Photo

Kayaking and canoeing are low-impact exercises that can benefit the body in several ways. In addition to improving cardiovascular fitness, these exercises strengthen various muscle groups throughout the back, chest, shoulders, and arms. Individuals who kayak or canoe regularly will also notice improved strength throughout the legs and torso. Considering the low impact nature of the sports, these benefits are accentuated by minimal stress on joints and tissues.

Many people enjoy the calm, tranquil environment provided by rivers and streams. Furthermore, these exercises necessitate exposure to nature and sunlight. Sunlight has been attributed to numerous psychological benefits, including elevated serotonin levels, which boost a person’s overall mood, and melatonin, which helps maintain a healthy sleep cycle.

Before beginners can start enjoying these and other benefits, they must familiarize themselves with the different categories of river difficulty to avoid taking on a waterway beyond their skill level. Developed by American Whitewater, the International Scale of River Difficulty upholds the national standard for difficult ratings. The scale is similar to the system used to grade ski runs. A river’s difficulty rating is based on other rivers in the region, not necessarily a nationwide constant. With this in mind, kayak and canoe enthusiasts should be very cautious when exploring a new river, regardless of the rating.

Similarly, ratings can be outdated due to yearly fluctuations in water levels or can change due to sudden weather events. Furthermore, some rivers have multiple or partial ratings. For example, a river may be rated a Class II with occasional Class IV rapids or may be rated as a Class IV river. In either case, individuals should have the skill to take on a river’s most challenging sections.

A final consideration that must be made when evaluating a river’s difficulty rating involves duration and stamina. For instance, a person may be comfortable with Class IV rivers and rapids while at peak physical condition. However, after several hours of Class III paddling, fatigue can set in, making it more difficult to take on rapids at this level. If for any reason, an individual believes they are not prepared for a specific river, regardless of rating, they should avoid it.

The scale begins at Class I and continues through Class VI. Class I rapids and rivers are fast-moving waterways with minor waves. These rivers feature little to no obstructions, and any challenges individuals face can be scouted from a distance and are easily navigable. Individuals who fall into the water will usually have no issues rescuing themselves.

Class V rivers, by comparison, should only be attempted by highly skilled kayakers and canoers. They consist of powerful rapids and demand precise handling. Swimmers are at considerable risk for injury, and self-rescue can be difficult. Class VI rapids, meanwhile, are generally considered too dangerous for paddling sports. Only world-class athletes should attempt these rapids, and even then, attempts should be made after extensive scouting and under optimal conditions.

It bears repeating that the International Scale of River Difficulty does not represent a perfect science and should be viewed as one of many safety resources utilized when taking on rapids. At its most basic, the scale serves to gauge the danger posed to individual swimmers and the likelihood of a successful rescue should someone fall out of the kayak or canoe.

MLB No-Hitters and Perfect Games

In the sport of baseball, pitchers can enjoy a variety of achievements that indicate exceptional performances, most notably no-hitters and perfect games.

A Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher can record a no-hitter by completing a regulation game without yielding a hit to the opposing team. A single pitcher must finish all nine innings in order to receive credit for the game, although multiple pitchers can share joint credit if a no-hitter is maintained over the duration of a full game.

As the designation suggests, a no-hitter is only concerned with whether any opposing players reach base by way of a hit. A pitcher can still receive credit for a no-hitter if they walk batters, intentionally or otherwise, or if a batter reaches base via error.

A no-hitter may also be credited to a pitcher regardless of fielder’s choice scenarios. This means that if a defensive player cleanly fields a ball and opts to throw out a runner at second or third base instead of the player running to first base, the pitcher is not charged with giving up a hit. Batters can also reach base in a no-hitter following a wild pitch on strike three or as a result of catcher’s interference.

With these exceptions in mind, it should be noted that it is possible for a team to score runs against a pitcher that throws a no-hitter. In fact, there have been two instances of MLB pitchers receiving credit for both a no-hitter and a loss in the same game.

Ken Johnson threw a nine-inning no-hitter in 1964 as a pitcher for the Houston Colt .45s. It was a clean game for Johnson entering the top of the ninth in a 0-0 tie, but a series of errors and ground outs advanced Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds around the bases. Houston failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, resulting in a 1-0 loss and a no-hitter for Johnson, who finished with nine strikeouts and just two walks on the day.

Johnny Vander Meer is the only MLB player to pitch no-hitters in consecutive starts, a feat he achieved in 1938. In 1965, Jim Maloney became the first pitcher in nearly five decades to complete an extra innings no-hitter. He nearly managed the feat twice in one season, having given up a hit in the 11th inning earlier in the year. Nolan Ryan holds the league record with seven career no-hitters.

As one might surmise, a perfect game allows for less leeway compared to a no-hitter. To achieve a perfect game, pitchers cannot allow a single opposing player to reach base by any means. Throughout 218,400 games and 150 years of play, MLB pitchers have combined for just 23 perfect games, with no pitcher achieving the feat more than once. Don Larsen is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in the postseason, which he achieved in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees.

A Brief Look at the History of the Stanley Cup

Awarded annually to the championship-winning team in the National Hockey League (NHL), the Stanley Cup has been in existence longer than the league itself. Originally named the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, it was donated by Canadian governor general Lord Stanley in 1892 to be awarded to the premier amateur hockey team in the country. The Montreal Amateur Athletic Association was the first team to win the prestigious trophy in 1893. Subsequent winners include the Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Montreal Wanderers.

The Stanley Cup was awarded solely to teams in Eastern Canada until 1915, when the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association won the trophy. The Seattle Metropolitans, in 1917, were the first team in the United States to win the Stanley Cup. Following a leaguewide expansion that included the addition of three American teams and the acquisition of some of the best Western Hockey League players, the NHL gained exclusive control of the Stanley Cup in 1926.

Continuing their national dominance of the sport, the Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup in the 1926-27 season. Previously known as the Ottawa Silver Seven, the franchise won 11 Stanley Cups from 1903 to 1927. The New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup the following year. The Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, and Detroit Red Wings all won their first Stanley Cup by 1936.

The Toronto Maple Leafs won six Stanley Cups from 1942 to 1951, but no NHL franchise has been more successful than the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal won its first Stanley Cup in 1923 before the trophy was owned by the NHL and, to date, has 24 victories. The team won the Stanley Cup in five consecutive years from 1956 to 1960 and four straight years from 1975 to 1979. The New York Islanders won their first of four successive Stanley Cups in 1980.

With more teams in the NHL, it is statistically harder to repeat as Stanley Cup champion, let alone win the trophy in four or five consecutive years. Yet the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning won back-to-back championships in 2016-17 and 2020-21, respectively. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup three times in the six seasons from 2010 to 2015.

Teams that have won the Stanley Cup have their names engraved on the trophy, a practice recommended by Lord Stanley. In 1907, the Montreal Wanderers expanded upon this by engraving each of the players’ names on the bowl of the trophy. This became standard practice in 1924. To make space for these inscriptions, the Stanley Cup was redesigned in 1947 and 1957.

Today, the Stanley Cup features a replica of the original design atop bands of the winning teams from 1893 to 1927, in addition to a shoulder collar featuring the names of each of the teams that won the trophy from 1892 to 1992. Below that is five barrel bands with space for 13 teams and the individual players on those teams. When a band is filled, the oldest remaining band is removed and placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame, which also houses the original bowl design of the Stanley Cup.

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