SIOUX CITY | Vita Tonga never threw a curling stone before playing at the Sioux City Curling Classic this weekend.
The Lawton-Bronson High School student admitted the fun was there, even if his team's talent wasn't.
"I mean we didn't place too well in the bracket, but the score is one to one right now," Tonga said during a first round game at the IBP Ice Center Saturday. "This guy's throw determines who wins or not, and it looks like we might win."
Tonga paused as he watched his opponent push off from the blocks in a lunge position with a hand gripping a stone and sailed it down the ice. With the help from the other team's ice-brooming efforts, the stone had enough to scoot near the scoring circle, or button, gaining one point.
"Oh well," the 17-year-old said disappointedly after a burst of commotion. "We will get them next year."
Todd Lien, IBP Ice Center’s facility manager, said the annual event was brought to town seven years ago to bring something new to Sioux City.
"At that time, the Winter Olympic Games that year found that the viewership of curling was one of the largest for a sporting event," he said. "The popularity was growing, so we just went off of that."
Lien said the first tournament had 16 teams in 2011. Attendance climbed as high as 36 teams but cranked down to 24 for the last two years. Most of the teams hailed from Sioux City, but some traveled from Omaha and Des Moines to compete, he said.
Curling involves sliding a circular object, called a stone, toward a target, while teammates sweep the ice in front of the stone with brooms to influence its speed and direction.
Pool play was Friday and Saturday and the teams were bracketed off those performances. The championship was Saturday night.
Lien said the winning team will get some prizes "but it's kind of a wash" when you equate the event's entry fee.
"It's really about having fun, though," he said. "It's for people to come out and try it and to hang out with friends and make new friends."