U.S. team with northern Minn. roots falls at Sochi

The 2014 U.S. Olympic Curling team

The 2014 U.S. Olympic Curling team, lead by John Shuster of Duluth, originally of Chisholm.

The Olympic dreams of the U.S. Men’s Curling team have ended, meaning the Sochi Winter Games are over for the Shuster rink whose Iron Range and Duluth roots pulsed out the TV screens every time they played.

With the 6-3 loss to Switzerland early this morning, Minnesota time, followed by yesterday’s devastating defeats to likely medalists Sweden and Canada, the U.S. men finish 9th, with a record of just 2-7. They fared only slightly better than the U.S. women, who finished 1-8 and in last place in their tournament.

Several stories deconstruct the poor American performances at the Winter Olympics, the second Olympics in a row where both teams fell far short of the medal round. Some suggest that the U.S. curling system, which advances amateur teams in national qualifying tournaments, could model other countries. In many nations, the best curlers are selected and formed into one “super team” that goes on to compete in the Olympics. Many of the teams that beat Team USA were formed in this way. To some degree, that’s what USA Hockey does.

Others argue that team chemistry is too important, though, and that the U.S. should be represented by the best cohesive team that forms on its own. The Shuster Rink had played like such a team before the Olympics, but were outmatched — sometimes by just a few inches — in Olympic play. Fundamentally, the qualities that made our curling teams so likeable (that they were regular folks who lived regular lives, while curling on the side) made for a huge challenge as they needed to focus on the biggest games of their lives.

In any event, I got tremendous enjoyment listening to Iron Range accents on national television, hearing these men who clearly love their northern Minnesota roots speak with pride about the place where, for better or worse, many of us choose to stay.


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