Cigarettes and beer no longer cool in curling
Bad raps are hard to reverse, but Brad Jacobs is doing his part to change the stereotype of the chain-smoking, beer-swilling curler who spends more time in the bar than fine-tuning his craft.
Jacobs says there is a new era of athleticism emerging in curling and his Canadian crew is on the cutting edge of a fitness trend that has helped transform the sport's image ever since curling was featured in the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
"Our identity as a team is of fit young guys," said Canadian skipper Jacobs ahead of their Sochi Olympic campaign, which started yesterday.
"Our team is unique in the sense that whether we curled or not we would still be in the gym."
Jacobs and his three-man crew spend up to 10 hours a week in the gym working out, doing cardio, stretching and core exercises. "I try to work every muscle," he says.
The image that curling bashers like to project of balding overweight men, raising another toast in the pub, won't cut it anymore at a high-performance event like the Olympics, says Denmark skip Rasmus Stjerne.
"I would like to see if those [critics] could handle a month of what I do in the summer," said Stjerne, who is a student at the University of Copenhagen. "I am getting up early in the morning, working out six days a week before work or school. That is really hard work.
"When we get compared to amateurs doing a silly sport it gets frustrating because the amount of work we put in is huge."
In the 1988 Calgary Games, curling was included in the Olympics as a demonstration sport. Canada held a pre-Olympic trial to help pick their team and the potential players were put through a series of fitness tests, which revealed some of Canada's top curlers were in dismal shape.
Two-time champion Ed Werenich could not even do a single sit-up and was asked to shape up, which he did by losing 8kg.
"It used to be bad, the smoking and drinking," said Norway's skip Thomas Ulsrud. "So I guess the bad reputation we had 10 years ago was true.
"But now I would say the curling athletes are fit. Look at the Canadian and Scottish teams, they work out. We get funded from the Norwegian Olympic Committee so we had to do a lot of physical tests. We tested better than some athletes in alpine skiing and hockey. We didn't beat them badly, but we were up there."
Curling is doing other things to try to change its staid image and attract more fans, like having players dress flashier or encouraging them to pose for raunchy calendars.
Ulsrud was in the Men of Curling calendar that was a big hit last year. US women's team member Debbie McCormick also posed for a calendar called Fire on Ice in 2006. "It is kind of fun to be a supermodel," McCormick quipped. "I like to joke that I was the centre fold because all the months were under my photo."
Russian curling beauty Anna Sidorova does a lot of modelling. The Russian skipper recently brought attention to her team by releasing pictures of herself wearing lingerie and holding a curling rock and broom.