Curling team with Northern MN ties vies for Olympic medal

U.S. men’s Olympic curling skip John Shuster is a Chisholm native and Hibbing Community College alumni. He leads his teams to the 2018 Olympic medal round for the first time since the 2006 Games. (PHOTO: U.S. Olympic Team)

Bad luck? A curse? Whatever you want to call it, U.S. men’s curling team skip John Shuster struggled in his last two Olympics. As part of America’s first medal-winning curling team — a bronze in 2006 — Shuster led the last two teams to ignoble collapses in 2010 and 2014.

Until now.

After a poor start that, among other reasons, had a local Iron Range sports columnist wallowing in a pit of despair, Team Shuster rallied with historic victories over perennial curling powerhouses Canada and Great Britain.

Now the U.S. team finds itself in the medal round, playing Canada again for a chance to advance to Team USA’s first-ever gold medal game. (UPDATE: The U.S. won that match! They now advance to the gold medal game against Sweden).

Shuster is a native of the Mesabi Range town of Chisholm, who now lives just over the bridge from Duluth in Superior, Wisconsin. He’s an alumni of Hibbing Community College where I work. He once held a work study job in the same department where my wife worked, making him the closest direct tie I have to an American Olympic athlete.

Curling is a little like shuffleboard on ice. Contestants guide smooth heavy stones across pebbled ice toward a target, scoring points for having the most stones closest to the button. In practice it’s very complex and strategic, but also involves bursts of energy as athletes sweep the ice to change the speed and direction of the stone.

The U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams all hail from Minnesota and Wisconsin. That’s mostly because the Great Lakes states are America’s curling hotbed. And while the women’s team just missed the medal round with a loss this morning, the men play on.

America’s curling program operates a little differently than in some nations. Independent teams compete to become the American team. Shuster’s reign as skip owes to the fact that he’s been the most successful curler in qualification play for more than a decade. Other nations cultivate teams from scratch, forming “all-star” squads that train together extensively. Shuster and his gang all have day jobs. Though they certainly put in many hours on the ice.

After Shuster’s defeats in the last two Olympics, some called for reforms to U.S. curling. But then Shuster won qualifiers again, and now he’s throwing a hot stone in South Korea.

Good enough for a medal? We’ll find out very early Thursday morning (4:05 CST) when the U.S. plays Canada in the semi-finals. If they lose they still get a shot at the bronze medal match Friday at 11:35 p.m. If they win, they’ll vie for America’s first-ever gold medal Saturday, same time.


  1. Good work Team USA!
    Giombetti has at least a little egg on his face for that article

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