Why do they brush the ice in curling? Fast and slow brushing methods explained at Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

It’s all to do with friction

Team GB will be bidding for gold medal glory in curling at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics over the next couple of days.

Both of Britain’s men’s and women’s sides are in contention, with Bruce Mouat’s team now guaranteed a medal following their semi-final win over the USA on Thursday. They will now face Sweden in a gold medal match on Saturday morning.

For their part, Eve Muirhead, Vicky Wright, Jen Dodds, and Hailey Duff had to fend off an early onslaught from defending champions Sweden on Friday lunchtime to secure their spot in the final two. They will come up against Japan on Sunday.

But one of the biggest questions that casual viewers of the sport often ask is why some players in a squad take on the role of designated sweepers, preceding their team’s stone on the ice and often frantically brushing at the path in front of it.

Here’s everything you need to know about why players sweep the ice in curling...

Why do they brush the ice in curling?

The simple answer is that it’s to reduce friction.

Prior to competition, designated ice technicians will sprinkle two layers of water droplets on top of the ice. This water then freezes to form bumps in a process known as pebbling.

Pebbling is designed to mimic the natural conditions of curling outside, when players would often have to take into consider factors such as snow and pebbles.

When a player sweeps quickly, it helps to heat and melt the newly formed pebbles on the ice, leaving a film of water that reduces friction on their stone.

If a team want a stone to travel further, therefore, they sweep more. Conversely, if they want it to travel a shorter distance, they sweep less.

Crucially, however, each ice sheet is different, meaning that curlers must learn how to read their surroundings to decide how they will play their shots.

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