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Olympics-Curling at the Sochi Winter Games

Reuters

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Here are the main facts about the curling competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics:

The competition:

Curling is played by two four-member teams, called rinks, on a sheet of ice 44.5 metres long and 4.75 metres wide. The aim is to deliver a polished stone, made of granite and with a handle on top, as close as possible to the centre of a series of concentric circles, known as the tee, and to knock away the stones of the opposing team at the same time.

Team members sweep the ice in front of the stone as it glides, to keep the ice clean in the running path of the stone, speed it up or influence its direction.

A game consists of 10 "ends" in which each team delivers eight stones -- two per person. A team score a point for each stone that is closer to the centre circle than their opponents' best stone.

The men's and women's tournaments will each feature 10 teams.

History:

Curling originated in Scotland in the 16th century, although a similar game was played in the Netherlands, and was originally played on frozen ponds and lochs. The first curling club was formed in 1716 in Kilsyth. The sport was introduced to Canada by Scottish soldiers in about 1760 and now the vast majority of the world's curlers live in Canada where the sport is played by close to a million people, according to the Canadian Curling Association.

Curling was included as a demonstration sport at six Olympics before finally being granted medals status for the 1998 Games.

The venue:

Ice Cube Curling Centre (Capacity: 3,000):

The Ice Cube Curling Centre features a combination of smooth and well-rounded contours reminiscent of the shape of the curling stone, which is accentuated by the bright polished surfaces of its facade.

The contenders

Canadian rinks have won medals at every Olympics in both the men's and women's competitions and arrive in Sochi as the gold medal favourite.

Brad Jacobs will try to follow Brad Gushue (2006) and Kevin Martin (2010) and skip Canada to a third straight gold in the men's event while Jennifer Jones will bid to put the Canadian women on top of the podium for the first time since the 1998 Nagano Games and end a run of silver and bronze medal finishes.

World champions Sweden skipped by Niklas Edin will also fancy their gold medal chances while Thomas Ulsrud's Norwegian foursome, who grabbed the spotlight in Vancouver with their outrageous harlequin-patterned pants, are expected to be among the medal contenders.

Anette Norberg, who skipped Sweden to back-to-back gold in Turin and Vancouver, will not be in Sochi leaving it to Margaretha Sigfridsson's rink to make it three in a row for the Tre Kronor.

World champion Eve Muirhead and her Scottish foursome could be Britain's best shot at Sochi gold while China will look for a return to the podium following a breakthrough bronze in Vancouver. (Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Julien Pretot)

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