From Curling Stone, an island in Scotland to competitions around the world

It is a sport that was able to benefit from the spotlight given by media coverage of the Winter Olympics in February 2022: curling is practiced with stones that all come from the same Scottish island. An increasingly famous but still surprising story.

It is a very small island off the British coast. Elsa Craig is located between Glasgow (Scotland) and Belfast (Northern Ireland) and is barely a square kilometer. There are birds, seals and especially granite on this piece of land devoid of inhabitants. and the company Kays Curling, which is based in the south-west of Scotland, has exclusive exploitation rights for three granites found on the island. Since 1851, the company has been manufacturing curling stones, the sport of sliding a stone across the ice to hit a target. And in Elsa Craig, it’s not just any stones, they are the best. Since the first edition of the Olympic Winter Games in 1924, cage curling has always provided the stones used in competition. It was the same in China a few weeks ago.

A unique rock and information

At the Mauchline factory near Ayr, each piece of granite is worked into a stone of 19.96 kg and 28 cm in diameter, used in sports. “We have yet to find any other type of granite in the world that is suitable for (making) a curling stone,” Jimmy Wylie, 72, the retired owner of Cage Curling, told AFP. Several tons of granite blocks called alicite or rebeckite are extracted from the island. They are then cut into slabs, cutting round stones. These parts must have distinctive characteristics. Their bottom surface should be hard, as snow can be very abrasive. The value of a stone is more than 500 euros.

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A sport that saved the Olympics from the British

It is worth noting that Great Britain has won the only title at the 2022 Winter Olympics, that is… in curling, in the women’s draw on 20 February. The British women’s team’s second crowning at the Games since 2002. The men, for their part, failed with a short header (5-4) in the final against Sweden.

Results that confirm that the British, and more precisely the Scots, who make up the selections sent in curling to the Olympic Games to represent Great Britain, know curling. The game was born in the UK. The World Curling Federation is headquartered in Perth, Scotland. Scotland, men’s and women’s combined, is a seven-time world champion and a fifteen-time European champion.

At the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix (France) in 1924, when only three nations competed in the curling event, Great Britain went on to defeat Sweden 38–7 and France 46–4 with no details. Nearly a hundred years later, these gold and silver medals won in curling are the only awards won by Great Britain, a record still disappointing for the 2022 edition, on the last two days of the Olympic Games.

This quirky and little-known game has been evolving for many years. Kays Curling Stones are exported to about 70 countries, and more and more people are trying their hand. With success, like Italy, which won an unexpected gold medal in mixed doubles against Norway at the Olympic Games.

Curling requires skill and strategy. And good stones. After that, no worries: There’s always granite at Elsa Craig. It remains to be seen whether export stones from Scotland will be made more expensive or complicated by Brexit. There is currently no data on this subject.

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About the Author: Piers Parker

Alcohol maven. Incurable pop culture specialist. Communicator. Gamer. Certified explorer.

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