John Shuster clinches record-setting fourth U.S. men’s Olympics curling team
OMAHA Three years ago, John Shuster wasnt invited to join USA Curlings new high performance program, a stunning snub for the three-time Olympian. The Chisholm native was determined to show what a mistake that was, and so were the other three members of the team he assembled.
Saturday, a group that won a bronze medal at the 2016 world championships got what it coveted most: a spot in this Februarys Winter Olympics. Shuster, a longtime Duluth resident now living in Superior, Wis., guided his foursome to a 7-5 victory over Team Heath McCormick to win the third and deciding playoff game at the U.S. Olympic trials for curling at Baxter Arena.
Shuster became the first American man to make four Olympic curling teams. He won a bronze medal as part of Pete Fensons foursome in 2006the only Olympic curling medal ever won by the U.S.and skipped the American men in 2010 and 2014. His string ties Debbie McCormick, who made four U.S. Olympic teams in 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014.
Team Shuster includes Tyler George and John Landsteiner of Duluth and Matt Hamilton of McFarland, Wis. Alternate Joe Polo of Duluth is expected to be named to the team at a later date.
Reflecting on a 5-3 defeat in Game 1, Shuster decided his team might have been too relaxed. He came up with a new plan for Friday: a trip to Omahas Henry Doorly Zoo, some TV time and a pot-roast dinner prepared by Hamilton. Shuster said he wasnt in a very good place after starting the playoffs in a 1-0 hole, and he thought the team would benefit from a routine that felt like a normal day.
It seemed to work. Team Shuster got back to its high-scoring ways in a 9-4 triumph, riding hot hands from every team memberincluding Shuster (94 percent) and vice-skip Tyler George (96 percent). Shuster orchestrated a similar agenda Saturday, returning to the zoo and coming to the arena to see Nina Roths teamfeaturing Hamiltons sister Beccawin the Olympic berth in the early afternoon.
His team got off to a similar start. With two Shuster rocks in the house and a McCormick rock in scoring position, Shuster used the last shot of the first end to displace McCormicks stone and score three.
McCormick had a chance to even things in the second end, but a slight miss on his first shot forced him to settle for two points rather than three. Shuster maintained the lead as neither skip could score more than one point in any end over the next seven.
A superb ninth end by Team Shuster held McCormick to a single point, leaving Shuster with a 6-5 leadand the all-important final shot for the 10th end.