The ever-dwindling of days until the 2014 Olympics kick off in Russia has Karrie Gottschild slightly on edge.
She can handle the outcome of curling matches in Sochi. But she’s both worried and excited about the response locally.
After the last Winter Games in Vancouver, the Chicago Curling Club received 1,200 inquires from people asking for a chance on the ice. The Northbrook-based club’s waiting time for lessons grew to two years.
“I’m actually terrified of the Olympic year,” Gottschild said. “We love to be ambassadors for the sport, but it can get overwhelming.”
In response to Chicagoans’ newfound curiosity about one of the world’s oldest team sports, the 65-year-old club restructured its classes to accommodate more beginners.
Last season, the club’s Learn2Curl program attracted 336 participants, and the membership swelled to 315 curlers with the addition of 73 new players.
“This is the largest enrollment we’ve had in a long time,” Gottschild said.
It’s easy to understand the intrigue surrounding a sport she calls “completely democratic.” If sliding rocks toward colorful concentric circles isn’t challenging enough, there’s a fair amount of teamwork, communication and strategy that’s required to win the game dubbed “chess on ice.”
Gottschild noted some of the best competitors at the Chicago Curling Club are seniors.
“It’s a lovely sport where people are super enthusiastic and gentlemanly,” she said. “It’s just the coolest thing.”
Natasha Wasinski is a local free-lance writer.