Upstate Faces Outbreak of Curling Fever During Olympics

February 8, 2018 at 11:04 am

Ann Merryman throws the stone at the Peachtree Curling Association Housewarming Bonspiel in Atlanta in March 2017.

With the 2018 Winter Olympics just underway in South Korea, one USC Upstate librarian plans to be glued to the TV for a sport that has been gaining traction in the United States since 2010: Curling.

Beyond watching Olympic-caliber athletes participate in this centuries-old sport that was born in Scotland, Ann Merryman, USC Upstate Library coordinator of archives and special collections, is also excited to have the chance to actually meet an Olympic curler later this month.

Jamie Korab, who was a member of Canada’s 2006 gold-medal-winning Olympic curling team, is slated to visit the Upstate Feb. 19-21 as part of the World Curling Federation Olympic Celebration Tour. During the tour stop, Korab will participate in a number of events, including a Feb. 19 presentation at Furman University, “Going for the Gold: My Life as an Olympic Athlete,” which will be open to the public; school visits; and a curling skills clinic.

Merryman said she had been interested in curling and had watched it in previous Winter Olympics when she discovered that the local Palmetto Curling Club hosts free open houses for people who want to try their hand at a sport sometimes called “chess on ice.”

“I went to one of the open houses they were doing, and I thought, what’s the worst that could happen, right? I could be terrible at it, but the open house was free, so I wasn’t going to be out any money,” she said. “And I went, and yes, I was terrible at it, but I was hooked. It’s seriously much harder than it looks.”

Since that fateful open house in 2016, Merryman has competed with the club in each of the four subsequent seasons. Of the current Winter Olympics in South Korea, which will end Feb. 25, Merryman said she hopes to watch as much of the action on TV as possible.

“This year is the first time they’re going to compete (in the Olympics) with mixed doubles, so instead of a four-person team with all males or females, the teams will have men and women. That will be interesting,” she said. “That’s going to be really fun to watch. I’ve got curling fever.”

Ann Merryman on the ice at the Charlotte Curling Association during the annual inter-club bonspiel, the 1712 Cup, in October 2017.

And while Merryman said she’ll be watching as much of NBC’s extensive curling coverage as possible, she’s also looking forward to Korab’s Upstate visit.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is that he’s going to run a skills clinic for the curling club itself, so we’ll actually get advice and help with our delivery or sweeping or strategy from somebody who is an Olympic-level curler,” she said. “That’s really cool.”

While the club has a robust membership, Merryman urged those who might be interested to come to one of the three upcoming open house events that are slated for Feb. 20 and 27 and March 6.

“It’s a fabulous way to try out the sport, just to see what it’s all about, for free,” she said. “Like me, you might realize that it is something that you really want to continue doing.”

As a bonus, she noted that Team Canada’s Korab will attend the Feb. 20 open house.

For more information on the Palmetto Curling Club, please visit www.palmettocurling.com.