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How you can get involved in this icy Olympic sport right here

It started with an ad for a four-week instructional league, but it didn’t take nearly that long for Jason Hillard to get hooked on curling.

“I’m a Southern Ohio boy, maybe I had seen curling in the Olympics once or twice, but I remember thinking ‘wow, this happens in Dayton,’” Hillard said. “I did not anticipate how much I would love the sport or the curling community.”

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While there isn’t a medal podium at the end of the ice, there are plenty of opportunities to try your hand at the Olympic sport of curling in the Miami Valley. Curl Troy – founded in 2010, shortly after the Vancouver Olympics, by a group of friends who got hooked on the game – runs leagues as well as Learn to Curl clinics in multiple venues including the RiverScape Ice Rink in Dayton and the National Trail Parks and Recreation District Chiller in Springfield.

And while fitness is definitely part of the equation, it’s the fun factor that brings local curlers back to the ice.

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Curling – which made its Olympic debut in 1924 – is a team sport, played by two teams of four players on a rectangular sheet of ice measuring 42.07 meters long and 4.28 meters wide with a target, referred to as the house, at either end.

A 44-pound granite stone is propelled down the ice and navigated into place by team members using a sweeping device, referred to as a brush or broom, to control its speed and direction.

Curling has been described as the “Roarin’ Game” with the roar coming from the sound the stone makes as it travels over the ice. According to the World Curling Federation, while its exact origins are unclear, curling is believed to be one of the world’s oldest team sports with records dating back to the 1500s.

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Beyond the history, curling is a game of strategy.

“It has been referred to as ‘chess on ice,’” said Hillard, now a Curl Troy board member. “There is quite a bit of strategy involved.”

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While curling is played on ice, players can still work up a sweat.

“Sweeping is really where you put in the work,” Hillard said.

Curling can help improve core strength and balance as well as burn calories.

Sean Snavely, of New Carlisle, got hooked after participating in curling event in December. It’s now a family affair as he competes in a league at RiverScape with his dad and two brothers-in-law.

“It’s a great stress reliever and fun competition,” Snavely said. “And anybody can do it.”

Hillard has seen players as young as 9 and as old as 90 try their hand at curling.

“I am a competitive person, but for me, personally, it’s the social part that brings me back,” Hillard said. “I have six kids at home, so curling is my outlet.”

The camaraderie is also a highlight for Curl Troy vice president Mike Harwat.

“One of the best things about the sport are the people you meet,” Harwat said. “I have met so many cool people and hope to find ways to introduce even more people to the sport – especially kids.”

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