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Olympic medals... 82 years later

IOC verifies 1924 curling claim

TURIN, ITA -- The International Olympic Committee has confirmed that curling’s official debut at the Olympic Winter Games occurred in 1924, not in 1998 as previously believed.
 

“Curling was part of the official programme at the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924, and the IOC is pleased to have been able to confirm that,” IOC Director of Communications Giselle Davies told The Curling News.

“With competitions starting for Torino 2006 in just a few days’ time, we are looking forward to new additions to the history books.”

The news has sent shock waves throughout the curling world. Instead of debut champions Patrick Huerlimann of Switzerland and Canada’s Sandra Schmirler, who both struck gold at Nagano in 1998, the first curling gold medallists hailed from Great Britain – and competed outdoors.

Joining them in the record books is Sweden with 1924 curling silver, and France with bronze; the only three nations who competed in curling that year in Chamonix, France.

Canadian Curling Association CEO Dave Parkes brushed off suggestions that the medals his nation won in Nagano have now lost some of their lustre.

“There’s no concerns of a tarnished legacy,” Parkes told The Curling News.

“We’re talking about different eras of the sport, and very different competitions.”
Willie Jackson’s 1924 team of Scotsmen beat Sweden 38-7 and then France 46-4 in outdoor matches lasting 18 ends (innings) to win the gold. Curling in the modern era is contested over 10 ends of play, in pristine indoor conditions and with less outlandish scorelines.

“There’s no loss of profile for Sandra’s team, or Mike Harris’ team (1998 silver) or our teams from Salt Lake (2002),” said Parkes.

“It is what it is. History has been reviewed and adjusted.”

The news was first reported by Glasgow’s The Herald on January 23. However, IOC archivists elected to examine 1924 documentation to verify the claim, leading to today’s confirmation.

Following 1924, curling became a demonstration sport in both 1928 and 1932, and was no longer considered an Olympic sport. According to the IOC, this occurred because there was no international federation to govern the sport.

Demonstration events continued in both 1988 and 1992 until curling returned to the Olympic program in 1998. The World Curling Federation, based in Perth, Scotland, was astounded at the news.

“This is all news to me,” WCF secretary-general Mike Thomson told The Curling News in January.

“I’ve not had time to check this out. However, if it means that curling in Chamonix in 1924 is now being recognized as an official winter sport, we are delighted. It is just a pity it took another 74 years before it appeared as such again.”

Herald writer Doug Gillon kick-started the investigation when he spotted Great Britain’s gold listed on the IOC website’s 1924 medal table. “That was the trigger,” Gillon told The Curling News. “I was aware that every medal table I had ever seen, relating to those Olympics, showed no Great Britain gold. Anyone who refers to it refers to a demonstration sport in 1924. And no medal table I’d ever seen showed this curling medal.”

The IOC has been somewhat complicit in the affair, announcing in 1998 that  “snowboarding and curling debuted as official disciplines”. That and similar references have now been updated on the IOC website.

Great Britain has now won two curling golds, most recently by women’s skip Rhona Martin four years ago in Salt Lake City. Martin is back in Torino to defend her title and meets Denmark in her first game on Feb. 13 in Pinerolo.

Olympic bronze has created joy for French Curling Association president Alain Contat.

“This is great news,” said Contat.

“An Olympic medal is always an incomparable event, and although this one is 82 years old the French curlers, I’m sure, will be very proud that France enters the history of our favourite sport. Vive le curling Français!”

 
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George Karrys

 

2006-02-08

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