How the Olympics impacts curling clubs in Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Winter Olympics are underway in Beijing, but the sports happening on the other side of the world are making waves here in Wisconsin in a few ways. For curling clubs in the area, the Winter Olympics is a crucial time to gather the next wave of curlers.
“Any time the Olympics happens, it’s a good thing,” said Poynette Curling Club Treasurer Jeff Koch. “We’ll get an influx of interest, and it’s a good thing it does help us add people.”
It especially helps bring in young curlers for the first time, extending the curling history in Wisconsin to the next generation. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, two of the earliest curling clubs in the country began in Milwaukee and Portage in 1847 and 1850, respectively. The WHS says it is believed the first curling match in the state took place on New Year’s Eve, 1850, on the Wisconsin River.
Since then, clubs across Wisconsin have added to the sport’s history. Every four years, clubs like the Poynette Curling Club and Portage Curling Club host events for newcomers to the sport. COVID-19 is making hosting such events more challenging. In Poynette, the curling club is postponing open houses, while Portage is canceling them.
“We’re just taking precautions this year and forgoing some of those activities,” said Portage Curling Club Treasurer Vietta Kampen. “We’ll teach them how to curl in small groups; we just aren’t opening it up to the public at this point.”
Kampen added the Olympics could bring 40-50 people out to the club to try their hand at curling in a typical year, which is why they opted to cancel some of the traditional events.
Still, both clubs stressed the importance of getting new members in to continue to advance the sport in an Olympic year, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.
“For this sport, you definitely need to get the youth going at a young age, and it will help the future of the sport,” said Koch.
Koch says there are many clubs, and if you want to start curling, there is likely one near you ready and willing to show you the ropes.
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