Team USA and John Shuster knock off Canada 5-3, booking a spot in the gold medal game; will play Sweden's Niklas Edin for Olympic GOLD.
Price Atkinson - GANGNEUNG, South Korea - For eight years, John Shuster heard the doubters. He's heard the insults. The digs and the jabs.
Questions leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympics were similar. Will this year be any different than 2010 and 2014 for the four-time Olympic skip? Those insults, jabs, questions and days of anguish are now a thing of his past.
Over the last nine days, Shuster has halted that narrative and began writing a new story. A new chapter in his life.
Led by the Superior, Wisc., native, Team USA defeated Kevin Koe and Team Canada 5-3 in one semifinal game this morning. The win ended Canada's shot at playing for a fourth straight gold medal. More importantly, Shuster further etched his name in USA Curling history by ensuring the highest finish ever by a Team USA squad at the Olympic Games.
"It's a pretty good story," Shuster said afterwards. "This is just another step."
That step is a spot in Saturday's gold medal game against Sweden (1:35 am EST). Shuster was a member of Pete Fenson's rink in 2006 that captured bronze, the only medal in USA Curling history. Now they'll be wearing either gold or silver on the flight back to the States.
"I just decided that, 50 years from now, maybe I'm long gone, when my kids are showing my grandkids video from the Olympics, I don't want all my videos to be me failing, " Shuster added.
After a 2-4 start, the Americans faced a steep, uphill climb to the medal round. The run started in their next game knocking off Koe 9-7, the first ever win by a USA squad over Canada at the Olympics, followed by wins against Switzerland and then Great Britain. Thanks to Korea's win over Japan, the U.S. escaped a possible tiebreaker.
Now Team USA is one game away from achieving curling history.
"We see people say, "Oh, here we go again. Another showing by Team Shuster.' Now we're here, so America, I hope they're excited. I hope they're watching," lead John Landsteiner said.
To get there Team USA had to get past Koe one more time in a defensive-oriented game that didn't include a single end of two by either team playing with hammer.
Koe started with hammer and the teams traded single-point ends in the second, third, fourth and fifth heading to the break. With the game tied 2-2, Koe opted to blank the sixth and seventh in order to play with hammer starting in the even and eighth end.
But it backfired on the Canadian skip. With the Americans lying two, Koe's final stone drawing into the house was too light and not even close. The steal of two put Shuster in control and successfully forced Team Canada to just one in the ninth.
Shuster had a simple hit for one on his final stone of the game to clinch the win. And he started double pumping his fist when his rock was halfway down the sheet, knowing he's won it for Team USA.
"I don't remember us really being in trouble at any point," vice skip Tyler George said, "We really stressed, "Let's be careful without the hammer. Let's not give these guys a big end and when we get the hammer, we're going after them tooth and nail.'
"When you're playing the best team in the world, you've just got to keep beating them down and beating them down until somebody flinches and this time it wasn't us."
This run to the final by Shuster and his affable teammates caused Sports Illustrated to pen: "USA Curling is the Cinderella Story of the '18 Games."
"This is no miracle on ice," Shuster said. "We're a great team that's on a roll. I've always felt this team was the beginning of something great."
Something great is just a day away for Team USA because no matter silver or gold, Shuster and crew are returning as heroes.
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