Photo: Rich Harmer
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Susan Dudt ’24 is one of 25,000 curlers registered with the U.S. Curling Association.
A Brush With Greatness
by Andrew Faught

When Susan Dudt ’24 tells people that she’s a competitive curler, she hears one of two responses.

“Some think it’s cool, because they’ve seen it in the Olympics,” she says, “but most times they really don’t know what the sport is.”

Its origins dating to 16th-century Scotland, curling is a mix of brain and brawn, with a vernacular all its own. In short, four-person teams push a hunk of polished granite down an icy “sheet,” trying to land the “stone” in the “house” — a bulls-eye 150 feet away. A stone’s landing spot can also strategically block an opponent’s efforts to hit the bulls-eye.

To control the path of the 38- to 44-pound stone, “sweepers” vigorously use a broom to scrub the sheet, which melts ice and reduces friction along its route. Dudt says sweeping is her primary strength. “It’s very high intensity for a short period of time,” she says. “You’re putting all of your energy out there.”

For Dudt, a civil engineering major from Malvern, Pa., the sport is a family affair. Her grandfather helped found the Philadelphia Curling Club in 1957. Dudt took up curling at age 5, and she became a member of the under-21 Team USA junior program last year.

“I love the sport’s mix of strategic and physical,” she says. “It’s very much like chess in the sense that you have to always think ahead. And because it’s a small sport, it’s a great community.”

While the curling season typically lasts from October through March, COVID-19 has put the freeze on competitions. Dudt typically competes in eight to 10 events per year, many of them in curling hot spots such as Minnesota and Canada. (“These days, I’m mostly just practicing until further notice,” she notes.)

Competitions are intense. Games can last two to three hours apiece, and teams typically are scheduled for up to three games per day on tournament weekends.

Dudt’s women’s team last season won the gold medal in the junior national championships, and her goal is to make an Olympic curling squad. She keeps in shape with interval training — short bursts of cardio workouts that approximate the vigors of sweeping. She also works with a sports psychologist to improve her mental game.

When she’s not competing, Dudt is evangelizing for the sport. She’s mentored children as young as elementary-school age and, because of COVID-19 restrictions, she’s taken part in several virtual curling camps. The more people who know about the sport, the more competitive it becomes, she says.

Curling grabbed national attention in the 2018 Winter Olympics, when the American men’s squad became the first U.S. team to win a gold medal. The women have yet to make the podium.

The game is not easy to master. Even after nearly five centuries, curling retains its secrets. “Part of curling physics is still unknown,” Dudt says. “No one is entirely sure why the stone rotates the way it does when you release it.”

For Dudt, it’s nothing a broom can’t handle.

Instant Replay
Greatest career highlight
Winning the gold medal at the 2020 Under-21 Junior Nationals.
Balancing Curling and Studies
“Managing school work with competitions has taught me valuable time-management skills and a willingness to ask for help when needed.”
Finding Motivation
“Competing on a small team with some of my closest friends keeps me motivated and allows us to push each other to perform our best.”
Lessons Learned in Curling that Spill Into the Classroom
“Curling has taught me focus, which allows me to better manage my time and perform better on the ice and in the classroom.”