Curling Queen



Illustration by Patrick Neil

Every two years, there’s this thing I do: I watch the Olympics. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Summer or the Winter Olympics, I watch the opening ceremonies with the thousands of athletes with their hopes and dreams shining in their eyes.I watch the magic and the medals and the tears, and I think to myself, “I wish I could be an Olympian.”

But sports don’t come easily to me. I can’t run to save my life—literally. I play basketball like a Tyrannosaurus rex (you know, useless arms). I tried skateboarding, skiing and in-line skating once. And there’s a reason I stopped after “once.”

Knowing how ungodly unnatural I am at sports, I figured my Olympic dreams rested on either divine intervention or on what seemed the easiest sport of them all—curling.

How physically hard can this be? Wear these snazzy pants, push off of this thing right here, slide down the ice a little ways, let go of this round stone thing here, and voilà! Olympic glory.

In my heady post-Olympics state, I got in touch with the Pittsburgh Curling Club and set up a lesson. Dan, the instructor, met me at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center. His goal—to turn me from a worthless sack of nothing into an Olympic hero with an engraved invitation to the 2014 Sochi games, where Bob Costas would ask me questions such as, “How’s that gold medal feel hanging around your neck?”

The first thing that struck me about curling was this: Ice is very slippery. Then Dan handed me a slider that went under my shoe for the sole purpose of making the ice 900 million times more slippery.

I successfully pushed off and slid down the ice with the 44-pound stone in front of me quite ungracefully several times without falling. This pleased me. Then Dan said, “OK, this time, let’s try letting go of the stone.” I wasn’t aware how much balance was required to stay upright upon the “letting go of the stone,” especially a stone that I had apparently been using as a crutch.

The first time I fell, I was sliding so slowly it wasn’t so much of a fall as it was a gentle giving out of the legs. I smiled. Small setback. Every Olympian has setbacks. Look at Dan Jansen.

The second time I fell, the photographer from Pittsburgh Magazine was all, “[click click click] HAHAHA! This is so fun! Zoom in! [click click click].”

The third time I fell, I was moving so fast and my hip hit the ice so hard that I felt something shift in my back. Something … not good. I realized the reason they had me sign that waiver.

The fourth time I fell, my husband was snapping iPhone pictures of me rolling around on the ice like a seal and then posting them immediately to his Facebook account with captions such as, “Ur doing it wrong.” I questioned my decision to bring him along.

The fifth time I fell, I was focusing so hard on all the things I had to remember to do that I didn’t do any of them. I may have punched the ice in frustration. I don’t recommend this because the ice always wins.

At this juncture, I was getting better at staying upright but still hadn’t sent the stone more than 3/4 of the way to the target, which is on the other side of the rink, but it may as well have been in Uzbekistan.

The ever-patient, always-smiling Dan decided to give me a break so I could try sweeping. And I thought, well, sweeping in front of a stone. THIS I can do. 

But guess what? Sweeping is hard, exerting work that requires you to stay in front of a stone that seems to be traveling at 60 miles per hour, never touching the stone while moving your arms as fast as you can for, well, forever. After one turn at sweeping, the photographer was snapping pictures of me doubled over and breathing as if I had just run the 100-meter dash. With hurdles. While wearing ankle weights.

After 1 1/2 hours of curling, I had a bruise on my underarm from the “stabilizing” (hah!) broom. My hipbone hurt. My quads hurt. My lungs burned. My husband was informing the Internet how terrible I was at curling, and the photographer was all, “[click click click] Best day ever. [click click click].”

But here’s the thing—best day ever. So fun. So addictive. So frustratingly NOT EASY. I have a new respect for the sport and for its athletes.

As for me, my dreams of Olympic glory have not completely burnt out thanks to Plan B: Divine intervention. “Are you there, God? It’s me, Virginia.”


 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Health Care in Pittsburgh that Goes Beyond the Office

Health Care in Pittsburgh that Goes Beyond the Office

Innovations in Postpartum Depression Treatment, First-Aid Training and Food Security.
Restaurant Review: DiAnoia's Eatery Bridges the Gap

Restaurant Review: DiAnoia's Eatery Bridges the Gap

With a little work, the Strip District restaurant could become a Pittsburgh classic.
Looking Back: Dan Rooney, Remembered

Looking Back: Dan Rooney, Remembered

The builder of two stadiums, a billion-dollar football business, NFL labor harmony and racial sensitivity, and bridges between constituencies –– he was an everywhere man whose soft, steady hand was felt everywhere.
Pittsburgh at the Forefront of The Brain Revolution

Pittsburgh at the Forefront of The Brain Revolution

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive ailment to treat and the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Pittsburgh has become a battleground in the fight against the devastating illness, thanks to the decade-long quest of two Pittsburgh researchers whose work is on track to change the face of medicine and affect millions worldwide.
Dr. Thomas E. Starzl’s Legacy

Dr. Thomas E. Starzl’s Legacy

The “Father of Transplantation” created a pioneering medical center and a city transformed by medicine.
The Slinky Playing Right Wing for the Pittsburgh Penguins

The Slinky Playing Right Wing for the Pittsburgh Penguins

Winger Conor Sheary emerges as a constant scoring threat and tenacious on-ice presence.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


New Study: Pittsburgh Drivers are The Worst of the Worst

New Study: Pittsburgh Drivers are The Worst of the Worst

Pittsburgh ties with one other city for having the worst drivers in the nation.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Brandon Blumenfeld introduces an American gastropub menu at the Troy Hill bar.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Dive Bar & Grille Expands to South Side, Remains Charming

Dive Bar & Grille Expands to South Side, Remains Charming

The latest outpost of the small, Wexford-born chain isn't flashy, but offers good beer and grub.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
‘Use Him Like ‘Troy Polamalu’ – Steelers Should Jump on This Pick

‘Use Him Like ‘Troy Polamalu’ – Steelers Should Jump on This Pick

If Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is still available, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be wise to make him their first-round pick in the NFL draft.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Pittsburgh on a Plate

Pittsburgh on a Plate

The way to a beer lover’s heart is mapped out on notNeutral’s plate, which highlights Pittsburgh breweries (and other points of interest) across the city.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
A Refreshing Action Flick and a Redundant Thriller

A Refreshing Action Flick and a Redundant Thriller

Reviews of "Free Fire," "Unforgettable" and "The Promise," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Beautiful Blooms: Twists on the Traditional Bouquet

Beautiful Blooms: Twists on the Traditional Bouquet

You’ll definitely want the story behind these stunning wedding flowers.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Rare Plants, Accessories, Up for Grabs at 2017 Garden Marketplace

Rare Plants, Accessories, Up for Grabs at 2017 Garden Marketplace

Hosted by the Penn State Master Gardeners, the free event, which includes the local daffodil society’s annual show, features exclusive and hard-to-find flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetable plants and other garden accessories from a variety of vendors.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Alex Rodriguez also is one of the league's more controversial stars.

Comments