Gangneung, South Korea – A rare moment of controversy in the typically ultra-polite sport of curling erupted Friday over a foul known as a “burned rock” in the Canada vs. Denmark women’s match.
The drama unfolded in the fifth end, or period, of the already tense game, when a Danish player touched a stone that was in motion. That is a foul called a “burned rock.”
When burned rocks occur, the opposing team has three choices: They can ignore the foul, rearrange the stones to whatever position they think they would have ended up if the stone hadn’t been touched, or remove the stone from play.
Canada’s captain, or “skip,” Rachel Homan chose to remove the stone. While such a move was within her rights, it is considered the most aggressive option. Canada, which was behind before the foul, then went on to score four points, taking the lead at 6-4.
In most sports, this wouldn’t even be considered a controversy. But curling has a deeply ingrained ethos of good sportsmanship, and players are usually exceedingly polite to their rivals. Tweets from curling fans immediately began to flow, with some criticizing the move as unsportsmanlike.
Denmark tied the score in the final end, forcing the game into overtime. Homan then flubbed her final shot of the match, giving Denmark a steal of one point and a 9-8 victory over the Canadians.
Afterward, Danish skip Madeleine Dupont said she disagreed with Canada’s decision to remove the rock.
“I wouldn’t have done it, but we’re different that way,” she said. “I’m not going to be mad about it. She can choose to do whatever she wants.”
Asked if it felt even better to win the game after the controversy, Dupont replied: “It does.”
“I felt like we had a good game,” she said. “I think we were just happy to be there and they were just afraid to lose.”
Homan said she was simply following the rules.
“There are options, and we’ve burned rocks in the past and they’ve come off,” she said. “Burning a rock is not something that you can do. So obviously, we’ve done it in the past and they just happened to do that then. So it’s just the rules, I guess.”
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