Curling: Enjoying challenge of 'chess on ice'

Australian acting skip Ian Palangio in action against Japan at the Asia and Pacific curling...
Australian acting skip Ian Palangio in action against Japan at the Asia and Pacific curling championships in Naseby. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Ian Palangio has been known as the "birthday boy" at the Asia and Pacific curling championships since first representing Australia 12 years ago.

He celebrated his 40th birthday in style in Naseby yesterday when Australia beat Kazakhstan to win its second game at the championships.

Palangio was one of Canada's elite curlers when he emigrated to Australia 12 years ago. There are two million curlers in Canada.

"I played at a high level and was in a top-10 team," he said.

Palangio was a member of the Australian team that won the Asia and Pacific championships in 2005 and 2006 and competed at the world championships on four occasions from 2005-08.

He played a key role for the 2008 team that finished sixth at the world championships.

The quality of ice is poor in Australia and the team travels to Naseby and Dunedin to train.

"We don't play in Australia that much," Palangio said.

"When we are preparing to compete internationally we train overseas."

One of the favourite spots is Naseby.

"It's like a second home for us," Palangio said. "We come for long weekends of four or five days. This is my third trip to Naseby this year."

The lack of top-class ice at home means the Australians must be inventive as they prepare for international events.

"We play mind games and throw unlimited rocks in our head by using visualisation," Palangio said. "We can jump on the ice from the plane and reach top form pretty quickly."

Palangio was living near Toronto 22 years ago when he switched from ice hockey to curling.

"Like every kid in Canada I played ice hockey. I was just a little guy and when I was a teenager it became full body contact. It was getting a bit physical for me so I switched to curling."

He had a job offer with Microsoft and shifted to Sydney 12 years ago to work as an accounts manager.

He enjoys the mind games that are involved in curling.

"The amazing things about curling are the scenarios and the strategy," Palangio said.

"It is like chess on ice.

"In chess you plan ahead for different moves. Curling is also strategy-led but you also have to physically execute your shot."

Palangio's goal is to help Australia finish in the top two at the Asia and Pacific championships and qualify for the Olympic Games in either 2014 or 2018.

"Ever since I started curling for Australia, the Olympics have been my ultimate goal," he said.

"That dream is what keeps us going as we get a bit older."

A highlight of his career was to play the winning shot in the semifinal against China in 2004 that qualified Australia to compete at the 2005 world championships.


Ian Palangio
The facts

• Age: 40.
• Family: Wife Lisa, daughters aged 9 and 6.
• Residence: Sydney.
• Occupation: Accounts manager for Microsoft.
• Club: Sydney Harbour.
• Record: Represented Australia 2001-12 at Asia and Pacific; world championships 2005-08.

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