Everest Challenge …

So, this weekend the curling season sort of started with a new event, the Everest Challenge. This is essentially a mixed event, where they take four men’s teams and four women’s teams, set aside the skips, and have them draft a completely new team mixed between men and women. And from that comes a sharp divide in teams, as they alternate, from the skip, men and women. So if a team has a female skip, then the skip and second are women and the lead and third are men, and if the team has a male skip, then the skip and second are men and the third and lead are women.

This interested me, as I wondered if the women-led teams would have their third throw skip stones instead of them. And while I couldn’t watch a lot of the event for many reasons, it seems that that wasn’t allowed, and so there was a sharp contrast between the teams. And the event schedule was set up to allow us a direct comparison, by having the male-skipped teams and the female-skipped teams play against each other to get to the semi-finals, so we’d potentially get an answer to the question of whether the skip being a man or a woman would matter to the outcome.

Now, my initial thought was that having the skip be a man would be a huge advantage, just because of how much harder they throw. But then I wondered if having a harder thrower at third might not be a bigger advantage, letting them get out of trouble. Or maybe it wouldn’t make any difference at all. And when the first round was done …

… all of the male-skipped teams beat the female-skipped teams. And except for the Val Sweeting/John Epping game, the scores weren’t even particularly close at the end.

So, heavy-thrower at skip is best, right? Well, except that I watched quite a bit of the Kevin Koe/Chelsea Carey match, and Emma Miskew, the third, threw a lot of high weight shots. So much so, that she had to extend her arm to add extra force to the throw instead of the usual just aligning your arm with the broom and letting go and letting the drive from your legs generate the speed. And Koe seemed to be playing a lot of finesse shots, which shouldn’t really be an advantage for men over women. So, then, why did the men have such an advantage? It could be that they know better how to shoot to take advantage of the really, really good sweeping that men’s teams can get that women’s teams can’t, but could it be that the men’s teams are just that much more skilled overall than women’s teams?

There’s some reason to think that the men’s game was overall more competitive over the past few years than the women’s game was, and so the men had to up their game more than the women did. Now, there are a number of really good women’s teams, but was the women’s game as overall competitive — meaning a number of teams that were very high quality requiring the teams to grasp for every advantage — as the men’s team over that period? I actually can’t say myself, because I didn’t have cable at the time and so wasn’t watching any curling. But having to be more competitive could explain it, as well as having more cash bonspiels that let them play more and gain skill that way (women are just now getting into all of the events on the Grand Slam of Curling).

This could have just been an anomaly, or it could reflect a major difference in skill, particularly in shot selection and game management. This event might become an annual, and so it will be interesting to see if the event continues and, if it does, how this divide shakes out over time.

Ultimately, this could just have been

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