Rethinking Our Story: Curling and the Olympic Effect

By Simon Barrick, Richard Norman and Heather Mair.

Published by Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: September 26, 2016 $US5.00

Often recognised as “quintessentially Canadian,” curling has long enjoyed a reputation as a quirky, accessible, and sociable winter sport (Weiting and Lamoureux 2001; Mair 2007, 2009). While first introduced as a medal sport (for men) at the Olympic Games in France (1924), sport leaders struggled for many years before its official status as an Olympic sport was cemented in 1998. Since then, Canadian athletes have dominated the Olympic podium and exposure to the sport has grown around the world. Nonetheless, efforts to grow the sport at the grassroots level have been less successful. The paper presents the results of an investigation into the impact of Olympic medal designation on curling. Twelve in-depth, qualitative interviews were conducted with participants with a variety of connections to curling (e.g., high and mid-level administrators, high performance trainers, sport journalists, Olympic medal winning curlers). Data analysis illustrates a number of tensions have surfaced since its acceptance as a full medal sport, especially in regards to local club development and mid-level competition. Indeed, as curling becomes increasingly professionalised, the benefits are not being felt at all levels. We conclude by situating these findings within the context of implications for Olympic medal sport designation and sport development more generally.

Keywords: Curling, Olympics, Qualitative Research

Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities, Volume 7, Issue 3, September 2016, pp.13-30. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: September 26, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 833.881KB)).

Simon Barrick

PhD Student, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Richard Norman

PhD Candidate, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Heather Mair

Associate Professor, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada