John Shuster to skip the U.S. men's curling team at the Olympics again
John Shuster will skip the U.S. Olympic men's curling team for a third straight Olympics after leading his team to a second straight playoff victory at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for curling.
Despite his long and decorated resume--Olympic bronze medal from the 2006 Torino Winter Games, where he played lead, plus experience skipping his current team into the top five at the last three world championships and winning bronze in 2016--the Olympic berth didn't come easy for 35-year-old Shuster.
His team lost the first game of the best-of-three playoff series to Heath McCormick's rink, then won the second game with help from a piece of errant ice that threw McCormick's final stone of the ninth end off course. Shuster was able to capitalize on the other team's bad luck by claiming four points and ending the game 9-4.
In tonight's third and final game, Team Shuster grabbed a big lead by scoring three points in the first end. They held on to the lead throughout but McCormick and his teammates were never too far behind.
Team Shuster had a one-point lead and the hammer, the term for the advantage that comes from throwing the last stone of each end, going into the tenth end. But that invaluable hammer came within a few inches of rolling too far away from the button, which would have tied the score and forced the game to an extra end. Luckily for Team Shuster, the stone stopped rolling just in time and they won the game 7-5.
Two of Shuster's teammates are already Olympians: John Landsteiner played with Shuster at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and alternate Joe Polo earned a bronze alongside Shuster in Torino.
The other two teammates, Tyler George and Matt Hamilton, will be first-time Olympians in PyeongChang.
After the match, Shuster told Trenni Kusnierek of NBC Sports that he wasn't focusing on himself during the Trials competition.
"What this is about and what I'm about is about getting my teammates there," he said. "I have two new Olympians on my team and I know how special that is, and now they know how special that is."
Hamilton added, "[Shuster] just believes in us and just reminds us all the time there's a reason he plays with us."
Shuster will be looking to erase some bad memories when he returns to the Winter Games; his rink finished last in Vancouver and next-to-last in Sochi. After the 2014 Olympics, Shuster got cut from the national team because he performed poorly at the first combine held by USA Curling's High Performance Program.
At the Team USA Winterfest event in early November, Shuster said that he took that moment as a wake-up call.
"I was like ok, if these people are going to be putting the work in and making changes then that’s something I need to do," he said, "because this is something I still want to be part of."
He started working out and successfully lost 30 pounds. Another big change came when he became a father for the second time; he said it made him more fearless on the ice.
"Making or missing a shot in the grand scheme of my life is now a lot less life or death," Shuster said, "because I know that my life or death, the most important part to me, is being a dad and a husband. My kids make it a lot easier to step into the hack and throw an important shot."
Appropriately, his two sons were the first people out on the ice to hug him after he made that oh-so-important shot that earned him and his teammates a ticket to PyeongChang.