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Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Introducing ‘Broomgate,’ the Latest Controversy to Hit Professional Curling

Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Professional sports and technology are often at odds, but the latest athletic scandal has nothing to do with super suits or performance-enhancing drugs; no, this one’s about brooms. Curling purists are raising a ruckus over high-tech brooms in a controversy that’s being called, predictably, “Broomgate.”

Curling is a relatively new addition to the Olympic sports family, and one of the most alien, at least to many Americans. The basic premise is sort of similar to that of bocce or darts, in that players attempt to get a projectile (in this case, a large, smooth stone) into a target zone. But unlike bocce balls or darts, curling stones have escorts. Two sweepers scurry ahead of the stone, smoothing the rough ice with their brooms in order to guide its direction.

Professional curlers must be dexterous, skilled, and have a solid grasp of the laws of physics. Or at least that used to be the case. Now, say detractors, fancy futuristic brooms are making it possible to buy a win. Unlike traditional brooms, the new Firebolt—er, icePad—scratches away at the ice’s pebbled surface, essentially sanding down a sweet trajectory for a gliding stone.

"It took a lot of the skill away from the throwers and put it in the hands of the sweepers and the person that was calling the sweep," former Olympic gold-medal curler Brad Gushue told NPR. “And really it's just allowed top players too much control to the point where it was actually difficult to miss some shots on line."

Gushue is just one of many players and officials concerned about the super-broom technology. "You really shouldn't be able to steer a rock down the sheet. That's not curling," champion curler Emma Miskew said in the Ottawa Citizen.

The World Curling Federation (WCF) agreed. During the 2015/2016 season, next-generation brooms like the icePad were banned, but this was a stopgap measure. To determine if the brooms really did lead to an unfair advantage, the WCF and the National Resource Council of Canada convened an official summit to subject the new brooms to rigorous testing. The results of those tests will be used to draft new official rules for the next season.

Surprisingly, this is not the first scandal to shake up the world of competitive curling.

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KXIV
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Redesigned Adidas Sneakers Channel Beijing’s Olympic Stadium
KXIV
KXIV

Beijing National Stadium has stood empty since the 2008 Olympics, but that hasn’t stopped the building from becoming an architectural icon. Designer KXIV (Nathan Kiatkulpiboone) found inspiration in the tangled "Bird’s Nest" structure when re-imagining Adidas’s Ultraboost running shoe. As designboom reports, he used 3D-printing technology to achieve the lattice design.

KXIV comes from a background in architecture. When he isn’t dreaming up shopping centers or city towers, he’s applying the principles he uses as an architect to sneaker design. In 2014, he unveiled a pair of Nike Jordan X shoes that borrowed elements from Thailand’s White Temple and Black House. He's also created a line of dress shoes inspired by modern architecture for the footwear brand SewRaw.

His latest project evokes the Bird’s Nest woven exterior. The Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron designed the stadium for the 2008 Olympics, and today it’s remembered as one of the most distinctive structures ever built for the games.

To recreate the look on an Adidas sneaker, KXIV used polyurethane webbing fused to a lycra base. The upper layer of bands were 3D-printed in a way that holds the shoes together. The sneakers are just a prototype, so like the stadium they’re based on, the striking form will remain unused for the foreseeable future.

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV
KXIV

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV

[h/t designboom]

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Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund
5 Fast Facts About Nancy Kerrigan
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund

Google Nancy Kerrigan’s name and the first batch of results will mainly be articles about the brutal knee injury she sustained, courtesy of an assailant hired by fellow skater Tonya Harding’s ex-husband, right before the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Yet Kerrigan is much more than a victim of that attack, even though Hollywood keeps making documentaries and feature films about the incident. Despite the injury, Kerrigan won a silver medal at Lillehammer (after previously winning a bronze at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France).

Currently, Kerrigan and dance partner Artem Chigvintsev are competing on the new season of Dancing with the Stars; as of this writing, the couple is still in it. Here are five things to know about the wannabe Mirror Ball trophy winner.

1. HER MOTHER IS LEGALLY BLIND.

In 1972, Nancy’s mom, Brenda, lost complete sight in her left eye—and most of the sight in her right eye—and became legally blind because of a rare virus. When Nancy’s parents attended the Albertville Olympics, they had to sit underneath the stands and watch the performance on a TV. “It’s made it possible for me to see 100 percent more than I would in the stands, but not the way you do,” Brenda told The New York Times in 1992. “I never can see her face.” Kerrigan set up a charity, The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation, to raise money for the vision impaired.

2. SHE MADE HISTORY AT THE 1991 WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Bob Martin/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

During the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships held in Munich 10 months before the 1992 Olympic Games, Kristi Yamaguchi, Harding, and Kerrigan all won medals; it was the first time the same country had swept the women’s medal stand. (American men did this in 1956.) Yamaguchi won gold at Albertville, Kerrigan won bronze, and Harding finished fourth.

Like Kerrigan, Yamaguchi also competed on DWTS; she danced with Mark Ballas during season six—and won. Wishing her former competitor Kerrigan luck, Yamaguchi tweeted “break a leg” to Kerrigan (which, in hindsight, might not have been the best way of rooting Kerrigan on).

3. SHE WROTE A BOOK ON FIGURE SKATING.

In 2002, Kerrigan published a book on how to figure skate. In Artistry on Ice: Figure Skating Skills & Style, she writes about advanced techniques, competition, choreography, and costumes (she competed in designer costumes created by Vera Wang).

4. SHE’S CURRENTLY PRODUCING A DOCUMENTARY.

Kerrigan recently told People about how she developed an eating disorder after the traumatic events at the 1994 Olympics. All the media scrutiny caused her to feel like “everything else was really out of control at the time,” she said. “I would avoid food because it was something I could do. I felt like I could control that and nothing else.” She wasn’t anorexic, but she did stop eating for a period.

With encouragement from her manager and family, she slowly started eating more. Kerrigan is producing a documentary on eating disorders called Why Don’t You Lose 5 More Pounds, due out next year. The doc will feature interviews with other women who have suffered through extreme eating issues.

5. A BIG-SCREEN VERSION OF THE TONYA HARDING INCIDENT IS COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU.

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

I, Tonya, a big-screen recounting of Harding’s rise to fame (and fall from grace) is currently in production. Directed by Craig Gillespie, the film will focus mainly on Harding, who will be played by Margot Robbie. Caitlin Carver, who appeared in the film adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns, will play Kerrigan.

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