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A week ago marked one year until the 2018 Winter Olympics. We are now 356 short days away from the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang, South Korea. A mere 356 days until citizens of all nations are gripped by international competition as the most physically and mentally tough among our compatriots prepare for battle on sheets of ice. But 356 days is still a long time to wait. Fortunately, this week and next mark the U.S. and Canadian women’s national championships in your favorite Winter Olympic sport – curling. For the next few days, I will be bringing you coverage of the U.S. women’s national championship in Everett, Washington and live from the Canadian women’s national tournament in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. I will also be bringing the sport close to home by connecting with local curling clubs to discuss the state of curling in the northeast U.S. Join me on the journey of becoming a curling fan @jay_woso.

So what is curling? What resembles a variant of shuffleboard on ice is a bit more unique. While the game does entail hurling large circular objects toward a teammate at the other end of the playing apparatus, that’s where the comparison ends. Fans of curling prefer to think of the sport as more akin to “chess on ice” – a team sport in which each shot is purposefully chosen and delicately placed while trying to anticipate the strategic moves of the opposing team and score points. But for a better overview of the sport, here’s a quick primer: Two Minute Guide to the Sport of Curling.

My first exposure to curling was during the Winter Olympics. As lore would have it, it was actually the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics during which curling started to gain a following in the U.S. When the ski jump competition was postponed due to high winds, the network scrambled to find another event to broadcast. They choose to broadcast the curling competition, and the rest, as they say, is history. I happened to watch a curling draw during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics just because it was on television. I tuned in to the Sochi 2014 Olympics specifically to watch curling, and in 2015 I was pleasantly surprised to find that ESPN had begun broadcasting the Scotties Tournament of Hearts – the Canadian women’s national curling championship (really – if you have the ESPN app you can watch every draw).

Last week, the USA National Curling Championships began in Everett, Washington. After a week of round robin play, we have reached the championship game in which Team Sinclair will face off versus Team Roth in the women’s final at 11:00am PST (2:00pm EST) and Team Shuster will play Team Birr in the men’s finals at 3:00pm PST (6:00pm EST). Both are available via live stream on the USA Curling National website. On the women’s side, Team Sinlcair advanced directly to the finals as the number 1 seed after round robin play and Team Roth beat Team Potter in a semi-final game 8-1 in six ends. We’ll check back in with them after the finals this afternoon.

This week, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts begins in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. Fourteen teams from the Canadian provinces – and Team Canada, the winner of last year’s tournament – will compete for the chance to attend the World’s Curling Championship in Beijing in March. The Tim Horton’s Brier, which is the Canadian men’s national curling championship, begins on March 4th in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Why are there two tournaments in Canada while there is only one in the U.S.? Well, while the U.S. is home to 20,000 curlers (second highest curling population in the world) Canada is home to 1.2 million as of 2013. Some have called for curling to be named one of Canada’s national sports. Will Chelsea Carey lead her team to victory again? With the upsets in provincial finals, will we see an upset?

Here’s what you can expect from Double G Sports: Look forward to articles about the U.S. women’s champions, a local look at curling, the Scotties tournament, and women in curling. For Scotties updates as they happen, follow @jay_woso, where I’ll be chronicling my journey from the middle of the action in St. Catharine’s, Ontario.

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