2006 Olympian Shuster heads to the final at the 2010 Olympic Team Trials

Feb. 27, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)
(BROOMFIELD, Colo.) - With the biggest crowd of the week on hand, John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) took one step closer to returning to the Olympic Winter Games Friday night after defeating Todd Birr in the semifinal, 10-4, in front of around 2,000 fans at the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Broomfield Event Center.

"Getting to the finals is great," Shuster said. "I feel like putting my life on hold for the last three years has really paid off."

Shuster, who played lead for Pete Fenson and won bronze at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, and his team of Jason Smith (Cape Coral, Fla.), Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.) and John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.) wil play Tyler George in tomorrow's men's championship final at 3 p.m. What's at stake? Being nominated to Team USA for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Shuster didn't miss many shots in dispatching the 2007 national champion Birr (Mankato, Minn.). Leading 2-1 after three ends, the turning point in the match came when Shuster made a takeout for four points after Birr failed his double takeout attempt.

Birr patiently scored a deuce in the fifth end after Shuster missed a runback, setting up a draw for two for Birr. The teams would exchange singles over the next two ends with Shsuter clinching the game with three points in the eighth.

"I think this afternoon the ending could have either made us or destroyed us," Shuster said about the last rock fluke ending to George earlier today in the page 1-2 match. "Jason was the first to shrug it off, and that's what we needed."

Birr and teammates Paul Pustovar (Hibbing, Minn.), Greg Wilson (Vernon Hills, Ill.) and Kevin Birr (St. Peter, Minn.) finish with the bronze medal.

Both skips in tomorrow's men's final hail from the Duluth Curling Club and share a close kinship, which is common in the sport of curling.

"No matter what happens, someone from Duluth is going to the Olympics," Shuster said. "We're all friends and want to see each other do well."

George's team already has defeated Shuster twice this week - 9-2 in the round robin and 6-5 this afternoon. "We're going to have to come out and play well and not make mistakes," Shuster said.

Live scoring from the event is available at www.usacurl.org/curlingrocks in the scoreboard.

Universal Sports began its live coverage this afternoon from the 2010 Olympic Team Trials. The coverage continues with the women's final at 10 a.m. MT followed by the men's final at 3 p.m. Live webstreaming also will be on www.universalsports.com.

Line score:
Birr 001 020 100 x 4
*Shuster 020 401 103 x 10

USA Curling is sponsored by Kodiak Technology Group, AIT Worldwide Logistics and Nike.
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