Curling fans are far from stone silent 

Like an NFL quarterback preparing for a playoff game on the road, Denmark's Madeleine Dupont has been working on hand signals to help communicate with her teammates.

Dupont's sport of choice is curling. But the crowd is so loud you could easily mistake these matches for football games.

They're chanting and doing the wave inside the curling venue at the Vancouver Olympics, and the players are having to adjust. Although the sport is one of Canada's favorite pastimes, the raucous crowds packing the cozy arena are raising eyebrows. Like golf, curling has an understated tradition and an etiquette that might be unfamiliar to some fans.

Dupont says at one point recently, she was about to shoot but decided to try to wait until things quieted down.

"The problem is probably that not everyone who's here is used to watching curling," Dupont said. "They just kept on going, and I stood up to be like, 'Can we please just ... ?'"

There's plenty of curling on television during these Olympics, with MSNBC, CNBC and USA airing it Monday. In prime time that night, NBC will show ice dancing, another event where there's a time to cheer and a time to be quiet.

NBC also plans to show aerials skiing and ski jumping in prime time.

The curling crowd Sunday morning wasn't too rowdy — fans have been asked by the public address announcer not to yell when players are shooting. In curling, players slide stones down the ice toward the "house" or scoring area, and lack of precision can be costly.

On Saturday night, the crowd broke into a spontaneous rendition of "O Canada" toward the end of Canada's men's match against Britain. Members of both teams agreed it was a great moment.

Still, curling is not hockey, and these crowds have been unusually loud. That can make it hard for players to communicate. As the Canadian women closed out a decisive win over the United States on Sunday, the home fans began doing the wave. When the match ended, a loud cheer rumbled through the 5,600-seat field house.

On another sheet of ice about 20 feet away, Britain's Eve Muirhead tried to play through the din, like a golfer trying to putt after a great shot by somebody on an adjacent hole.

"The first few days you're a bit shocked hearing it, but definitely now you adjust to it and you get used to the noise out there," Muirhead said. "The crowds are fantastic out there and make a racket. It's good for the sport in a way to have all these supporters, but you're expecting that in Canada."

Muirhead had complained about the crowd noise earlier in the weekend, and Dupont has had problems with it, too. After a win over Denmark on Friday, Canada's Cheryl Bernard said fans needed to be a little quieter.

Dupont is only 22, which could explain some of her struggles. American Allison Pottinger, who has competed in Canada before, says her team was prepared for the noise. She defended the fans, saying they shouldn't be expected to time their cheering perfectly with four games taking place simultaneously in the same building.

"The problem is, somebody on Sheet C is making a great shot while someone's in their backswing on Sheet B," she said.

Then she mimicked an arm-waving move familiar to basketball fans everywhere:

"It's not like someone's throwing a free throw and we're all going like this behind them."

With medals at stake in a few days, the noise is something the players will simply have to get used to.

"It's a louder crowd than what I've ever seen before. ... Sometimes it's a little loud maybe when you don't want it to be, but it's Olympics and people are having the best time and they're cheering on their country," Bernard said. "The younger players, probably it's a little bit new, but what an experience for them to be getting. They're never going to ever have a crowd probably like that again, and so nothing will bother them from this point on. ... I think I'd panic if it got quiet now."

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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