John Shuster led the U.S. men to a bronze-medal finish at the 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship on Sunday in Basel, Switzerland. It marked the first worlds podium finish by an American men’s curling team since 2007 and gave the U.S. a solid start on the road to qualifying for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Shuster and teammates Tyler George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner defeated Japan 8-6 Sunday morning for the bronze. The Americans came out of the gate strong, posting four points in the first two ends, but the determined Japanese were able to climb back into to contest, leveling the score at 6-6 going into the eighth end. The U.S. went back up 7-6 in the eighth, then stole a point in the 10th end to seal the match.
The bronze caps a season that has been filled with success, giving the United States momentum as qualifying for PyeongChang begins. Points are earned in the two world championships leading up to 2018, and the top seven teams will join host nation South Korea as automatic qualifiers to the tournament. The U.S. women’s side already has seven qualification points in the bag, thanks to its sixth-place finish at last week’s worlds, and the men’s bronze medal gives them 10 points.
Shuster, already a three-time Olympian at age 33, was the lead when Team USA won bronze at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, the first Olympic curling medal for the United States. He has led his side to victories at three World Curling Tour events this season as well as the semifinal of a Grand Slam event.
“We are comfortable playing in these kind of events,” Shuster said, “especially since we’ve played in six big arenas in the last calendar year. One goal all year was to get the podium at the world championships.”
With that goal now achieved, the American side can put its string of almost-but-not-quite results in the rear view mirror, heartbreaks that included missing the playoff round of the previous two world championships through tiebreakers.
With interest in the sport building through such vehicles as the “Curling Night in America” telecasts on NBC the last two season, the perfect storm of public exposure and on-ice success seems to brewing, with Shuster and crew hoping to ride a tsunami of support into PyeongChang less than two years from now.