John Shuster’s rink dominates to win U.S. Olympic Curling Trials
Curling games can take more than three hours. John Shuster‘s rink finished off Pete Fenson‘s rink in under 90 minutes at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday.
Fenson conceded the third game in a best-of-three championship series after falling behind 11-1 after four of 10 regulation ends in Fargo, N.D., shaking hands with Shuster to end it early.
Shuster’s rink will now head to an international Olympic qualifier in December with hopes of earning the U.S. and his rink a spot in Sochi.
How surprising was the blowout?
“A little bit, but we decided today that we weren’t going to let these guys get comfortable on the ice,” Shuster said on NBCSN. “We were going to come after them right away and see if we couldn’t conjure up something big and get a big lead.”
Shuster had scored five points in the third end to take a commanding 7-1 lead, and then four more in the fourth to take an all-but-insurmountable edge not even halfway through.
It was a stunning one-sided game after the first two between the rinks were tied after regulation on Friday and Saturday and went 11 ends. Shuster won the opener 9-8. Fenson forced a third game with a 5-4 win Saturday.
It’s notable that Fenson rallied from 8-3 down after seven ends on Friday. He must have believed that a 10-point deficit with three more ends to make it up than Friday was too much.
“At that point in the game, it wasn’t all that difficult,” Fenson said, according to USA Today. “We were so far behind that was really no catching up anyway.”
Shuster won the trials, but his rink is not guaranteed an Olympic berth.
The next step is what’s called the Olympic Qualification Event from Dec. 10-15 in Füssen, Germany, because the U.S. did not qualify for Sochi via results at the last two World Championships.
The top two from the Olympic Qualification Event will earn the final spots at the Olympics.
The U.S. is favored to take one of those two spots given it’s the highest-ranked nation in the Olympic Qualification Event field (eighth overall) and has qualified into every Olympic curling tournament since the sport returned to the Games in 1998.
Shuster called it a “B qualifier.”
“We’ve played against pretty much all the teams that are there, and we’ve had a lot of success against them,” Shuster said. “We’re going to celebrate this tonight, but go back to work, like they say, tomorrow.”
Fenson, 45, skipped the U.S. rink that won bronze at the 2006 Olympics. Shuster was also on that rink and then led his own rink to the 2010 Olympics, where he was briefly benched after a poor start.
Shuster, 31, is the manager of Pickwick Restaurant & Pub in Duluth, Minn. His vice skip is Jeff Isaacson, 30, a science teacher from Gilbert, Minn., who was also on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team that was knocked out in round-robin play.
The last two members of the team will be Olympic rookies, should they qualify. Second Jared Zezel, 22, is a Bemidji State student and a relative of the late NHL player Peter Zezel.
Lead John Landsteiner, 23, is an engineer from Duluth.
“There’s not a weak spot on our team,” Shuster said. “Every single one of these guys is one of the best in the world at each position, respectively.”