PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — John Shuster let the stone glide down the sheet, and it took less than a second for everyone in Gangneun Curling Center to grasp what had happened. There were still two ends to play, but an incredible five-point shot was all Shuster and his team needed to capture the United States’ first-ever Olympic title, capping an incredible comeback for the Americans at these PyeongChang Games.
The United States topped Sweden 10-7 in the gold medal match of the men’s curling tournament Saturday afternoon. The win marked only the second Olympic medal the United States has ever won in curling and the first since 2006.
Even reaching the finals felt like quite an accomplishment for the American team, considering the way it started this tournament. The United States, which featured Shuster as skip alongside teammates Tyler George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner, opened up round-robin play with a 2-4 record but managed to claw back into contention, eventually ousting Canada, 5-3, in a semifinal on Thursday. Entering the tournament, Canada had reached the gold medal match at five straight Olympics, winning the past three. But Shuster’s team topped them twice before then taking down the tournament’s second-ranked team in the Olympic final, stringing together five straight wins along the way.
In a tactical, intense final match-up, Sweden was just as tough as advertised. Sweden took bronze at the Sochi Games four years ago and was the runner-up at last year’s world championships. Clearly, the Swedes, with Niklas Edin as skip, had their eyes set on gold this time.
After Sweden jumped up 2-0 in the second end, the United States bounced back in the third, knocking two potential Swedish stones off the board and giving the Americans two points. They’d pick up their first lead of the game with a score in the fourth. With Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Trump, watching from the stands, the two sides swapped the lead over the next couple of ends.
They were tied at 5-apiece after seven. That’s when Shuster came up with his magical throw, the biggest the United States had ever seen — and it happened to come when they needed it most. On his final shot of the eighth end, Shuster knocked two Swedish points off the board, leaving an incredible five American stones in the circle.
Sweden picked up two more in the ninth but couldn’t dig itself out of the hole.
Shuster happens to have played a key role in both of the United States’ Olympic curling medals. He played lead for Pete Fenson’s rink when that team won the bronze at the Turin Games.