Curling their way from Ukraine

Anastasiia Kotova, Nikolov Eduard and Yaroslava Kalinichenko preparing to sweep the ice in front of a granit stone.

Making the long trip all the way from Ukraine, a team of nine Ukrainian curlers known as the National Ukrainian Curling Team visited both North America and Europe for curling competitions over this summer.

Curling is known to most people through the Winter Olympic Sports, although it first originated in 15th-century Scotland, according to 20-year-old Ukrainian curler Yaroslava Kalinichenko.

The game of curling first became an official Olympic sport during the 1924 Olympics according to Time Magazine. Before that, it was played outside on a large body of frozen water. Nowadays, the sport is rarely played on frozen lakes or ponds due to the unpredictability of the ice.

In a classic curling game, the sport involves four players, each one with a different position. The basics of the game include one player sliding a large granite stone with a colored handle representing their team across an ice sheet, while two other players sweep the ice in front of the stone as it travels across the ice in an attempt to reach the middle of a target.

Stones in the center of the target at the end of the game earn the team two points, while stones in the outer ring of the target earn one point.

“When I was a first year student, I studied the subject of winter sports at our University,” 20-year-old Ukrainian curler Polina Putintseva said. “I liked it and so I started curling.”

Most of the Ukrainian team members met at their Eastern European University, where they started curling together. However, the youngest of the team, 18-year-old Diana Moskalenko, has a different story about how she became a part of the team.

“My friend wanted me to try curling. “It was difficult, but it was really interesting,” Moskalenko said. “And so, I started to play curling.”

While curling was the reason the team came to America, they also got the opportunity to learn some of the English language and other languages, like French, from many different people, all while practicing for upcoming tournaments.

The team hosted multiple volunteers across Utah to help teach them different languages while in Ogden, including Claire Hughes, the Writing Center coordinator at Weber State University, and Tom Mathews, Spanish professor and Chair of Performing Arts.

“This has been more valuable for me, I think, than it has been for you,” Mathews told the team while saying goodbye to them for the last time on Aug. 17. “It’s been a joy to meet with your team.”

The curlers would practice curling in the morning and learn English at a house they stayed at in Ogden during the afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to Mathews.

The Ukrainian curling team mentions the English language is easier to learn than learning the Ukrainian language; however, “it’s still difficult to learn,” Kalichenko said. “The Ukrainian language has more rules than the English language.”

Aside from learning the English language, competing and practicing curling, the Ukrainian curling team would venture out and try new things in the area.

Their adventures varied from hiking, playing music and swimming in Pineview Reservoir, to going to Farmington City’s Lagoon amusement park, visiting Park City and trying new foods in different restaurants.

While the team is away from their friends and families, they are able to use their phones to contact their friends and families in Ukraine, whose country is currently at war with Russia.

“Our families are in Ukraine right now,” Putintseva said. “It’s dangerous.”

The Ukrainian curling team left the United States in the beginning of September to travel back to Europe in order to compete in five more curling tournaments. After the tournaments are over, they will head back to their homes abroad.

The last time the team was in Europe, they won second place in the European Curling Championships while Ireland received first place, according to Kalinichenko, who hopes to someday be a part of the Winter Sports Olympic curling games.

The Ukrainian curling team competed and received first place at the Weber County Sports Complex ice sheet located in Ogden City on Aug. 19, which was also where some of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games took place.

In this curling tournament, the team split up into two teams in order to make the numbers even for the tournament. One of the teams received first place in a landslide, while the other team got second place.

At the end of the game, all of the players gathered their brooms and beat them against the ice to make a rhythmic sound while getting in a line around the ice sheet.

As a way to show people that Utah is aware and cares about what is going on in Ukraine during their war with Russia, the Utah Military Academy Honor Guard brought out the Ukrainian flag, as well as a United States of America flag, a Utah state flag and the United States Air Force flag.

While the flags were being held by Utah Military Academy Honor Guard personnel, a bagpipe was played and a woman sang the Ukrainian national anthem, after that the United States national anthem was sung as well.

The National Ukrainian Curling Team left on Sept. 2 to finish up the rest of their tournament in Europe.