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.

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