There’s a backlash against high-tech brooms in the competitive sport of curling

But will anyone ban those trousers?
But will anyone ban those trousers?
Image: Reuters/Mark Blinch
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When new technology threatens to fundamentally change a sport, governing bodies usually step in to assess the damage—if any. But in the exciting world of curling, the world’s top players have taken the decision into their own hands. By refusing to use high-tech brooms.

As the winter sport is played, players take turns sliding what’s known as a “rock” across an ice sheet, aiming for a circular target. They use a broom to furiously sweep the floor to control the speed and curl of the stone.

But a new generation of brooms come with a directional fabric that alters the control players have on the stone. Gerry Peckham, Curling Canada’s high-performance director, told CBC News:

It’s like having a rock with a steering wheel on it and you can pretty much get it to go where you want to or influence it substantially.

In a statement posted on Team Canada’s website, elite players claim these new brooms diminish athleticism and give teams an unfair advantage. Forty-five players, including Olympic gold medalists Brad Gushue, Brad Jacobs, and Jennifer Jones, have signed the statement.

Curling isn’t the first sport to struggle with new technologies. Soccer has finally allowed goal-line technology (paywall) but struggles with the idea of video replays. Tennis players first used rackets made of wood but that became obsolete when graphite frames began to dominate the game in 1980s. Rackets continue to evolve, with players adopting different designs to accentuate their strengths. The motorsports Formula One and Formula E practically thrive on advances in tech.

But, like the curlers, other sports haven’t embraced change so willingly.

Swimsuits have become more high-tech over the last 80 years, but the designs revealed in 2009 Olympic Games made some feel like a line had been crossed. The world governing body was forced to convene a summit after players wearing Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit won 90% of all available medals and broke 23 world records. It decided to ban all non-textile swimsuits, including polyurethane, which some argued gave swimmers an unfair advantage as they were subject to less drag.

Which way will curling go?