Cold sports hot up

Cold sports hot up
Trend story on curling, a winter sport, and who is doing it in Singapore. Members of Equatorial Curling Club will do a live demonstration.

SINGAPORE - It is 10.15pm on a quiet Wednesday evening and business is winding down at JCube in Jurong. Most food outlets have shut for the night and the rink is emptying out, save for a few straggling figure skaters who have just ended class.

But for 25-year-old civil servant Somerton Sio and five other members of the Equatorial Curling Club, the night has just started.

"We usually come at this time because the rink is used for skating and ice hockey earlier in the day. It's the only slot we get," explains Mr Sio, the club's president.

He has driven all the way from Changi, where he works. Another member, housewife Theresa Foo, 61, has travelled from her home in Novena.

"Normally, at this time, I'd be at home, either reading or getting ready to sleep," she says.

They turn their attention to arranging sixteen 20kg granite stones on the ice and hauling out brooms kept in the rink locker.

Such equipment is used for curling, a winter sport that requires players to slide stones across the ice and get them as close as possible to a target while also knocking their opponent's away from it.

Curling is one of two lesser known winter sports that are slowly picking up followers here. The other is broomball, an ice game originating from Canada that involves two teams of six squaring off to score a ball slightly smaller than a football ball into opposing goal posts using broom-shaped sticks. It is similar to floorball and field hockey.

Curling has steadily gained traction across Asia. At this year's Sochi Winter Olympics, China's men's curling team came within a whisker of a bronze medal, narrowly pipped by the Swedes. South Korea has invested more into training its curling teams, eyeing potential medals as it gears up to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In tropical Singapore, curling and broomball remain a recreational sport played by a handful of groups.

Broomball was recently introduced by JCube's The Rink to give consumers more variety. Some 96 players participated in The Rink's "Ice Challenge" event a few weeks back.

Noting how it is played on special high-friction shoes instead of skates, a spokesman for JCube says: "We hope to encourage those nervous about ice skating to take part in on-ice activities."

Similarly, curling does not require skates. To take a shot, a player slides across the ice with an attachable Teflon sole and releases a stone in the direction of a circle.

But Mr Sio and his fellow member's efforts to coach this Life! reporter soon wind up with me splayed out on the ice and chuckling sheepishly.

An actual game is far more interesting and involves much back and forth as two teams, led by the "skips" or leaders, strategise how to volley the stones around or into one another's.

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