March 16, 2009, 12:26 p.m. (ET)

March 6, 2009

My name is John Benton, and I am the lead on the Team Shuster (or should I say Team USA!) curling team. Since this will be a series, I thought it might be best to tell you a bit about myself first. I am 39 years old and have been curling since the age of 6. I have participated in seven National Championships and four Olympic Trials for curling. I am employed by a leading healthcare company based in Minnesota as an IT professional specializing in automation technologies. My wife, Carrie, and I live just 30 minutes northwest of Minneapolis. We have no children, but we both have large families that mainly live in Minnesota, and we are very close to all of them.

Curling has been a lifelong passion of mine. I had my first success as a curler at an early age. In 1987, when I was just 17 years old, a team that I was skipping (captain of) won the Minnesota State Junior Championship and went to the Junior Nationals. From that point on I kept competing and trying to perfect my game. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I had my first success as an adult. In 1997 I joined a team playing in Wisconsin and played the second position.  We won the Wisconsin Men’s State Championship, and I was off to my first men’s National Championships.  Since then I have spent time on a number of teams trying to win a National Championship and reach the ultimate goal of winning a gold medal at the Olympics!

I almost gave up on that dream.  After a nine-year stint with the same team, we broke apart two years ago. Our best finish in those nine years was fifth.  (We did that four times.) I was not playing well and was having some physical issues. I moved on and played on a good team last year, but we failed to make the National Championship, and I was pretty discouraged. During the last season I had also begun to do some serious coaching. I was enjoying being a coach and started to think that maybe that was where I needed to be. I had some offers to play, but I just wasn’t sure if I was up to the task. I didn’t know if I still “had it.” As it turned out, I was left with a pretty big decision.

In May of last year, I had two offers on the table: one to coach a high-level men’s team that had a great resume of success and another to play with former Olympian and bronze medalist, John Shuster. After much deliberation and consultation with friends and family, I decided to give my dream another shot as a player. In June I told John Shuster that my choice was to play on his team. What a great choice!

Playing with John has refreshed my energy and enthusiasm for the game and has resulted in bringing me within reach of my dream.  Our team (John Shuster, Jason Smith, Jeff Isaacson and I) recently won the 2009 USCA National Championships and 2010 Olympic Trials for Curling!

Of course, the last week has been a whirlwind, and we are very excited. Family, friends, peers and coworkers are already making plans for Vancouver!
Of course the job is not done yet. We still have a lot of training and preparing to do. I hope to be able to fill you in on our team and some of those plans in my next few posts.

Until then….good curling!

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