Northern MN Team Shuster wins USA curling trials

Shuster rink wins US curling trials

The Shuster Rink won the U.S. curling trials and now heads to Germany to win a berth in the 2014 Winter Olympics. All four teammates are from northern Minnesota — two Duluthians and two Iron Rangers. PHOTO via Team USA Curling

With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia approaching quickly, here’s some exciting news for curling fans. The northern Minnesota-based Shuster “rink” (curling-speak for “team”) has won the USA Curling trials and advances to an international tournament in Germany to determine if Team USA qualifies for the Olympics. They are favored to do so.

Team Shuster, skipped by John Shuster originally of Chisholm, now of Duluth, defeated the odds-on favorite Team Fensen, which also has northern Minnesota ties.

Shuster skipped the 2010 USA Curling Olympic team that failed to medal, while Fensen’s rink won the USA’s only curling medal in history in 2006. The sport is typically dominated by Canadian and northern European teams.

Here’s the report from Team USA Curling:

(FARGO, N.D.) – As quickly as the game began, it was over and Team Shuster is on their way to try to earn the United States its berth for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games after defeating Pete Fenson, 11-1, in four ends in the final game of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling.

“It was like a funeral in here. Believe me, I’d much rather win that way than an extra end,” Shuster said about the stunned silence when Fenson’s team conceded the match after four ends. “It was pretty sweet. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but we have more work ahead of us.”

Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Duluth, Minn.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) will now represent the U.S. at the Olympic Qualification Event Dec. 10-15 in Fuessen, Germany, where they’ll compete with seven other countries for the final two berths for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in February.

“We won in Denver four years ago and to have the opportunity to play in the Trials final once is incredible and to win it is even better,” said Isaacson, 30, who works as a science teacher. “To come back, there are so many teams that want this so bad and we made it to the finals again. To win is just incredible. I don’t know how else you can say it. I’m very honored to have the chance to play and certainly with this team the guys have worked so hard. It’s an incredible experience and I’m very happy.”

Curling as a sport has a long history in the Great Lakes region, owing to its popularity among early Scottish and British immigrants that settled Canada and came through northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota for mining and prospecting. It’s a sort of complicated ice “horseshoes” that uses giant “rocks” quarried from one specific place in Scotland. There’s a complex strategy of skidding the rocks along pebbled ice toward a target and then trying to knock out your opponents stones. It’s actually a lot of fun, though it gets a bad rap by people who don’t understand it when it comes on TV.

This is one of those situations where you really want to watch the winter Olympics on the CBC instead of on NBC, which is just terrible at schmaltzing up the winter games.

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