By Todd Kortemeier | Dec. 29, 2018, 8 a.m. (ET)

(L-R) Matt Hamilton, John Shuster, John Landsteiner, Tyler George and Joe Polo smile for a photo on Feb. 24, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. 

 

Olympic years haven’t always been awesome for John Shuster. This one definitely was.

It was in the middle of the night in the United States when Shuster nailed a double takeout to give the U.S. men’s curling team a 10-5 lead after eight ends in the 2018 Olympic gold-medal game against Sweden.

This was after coming back from a 2-4 round robin record.

But even if only the most diehard curling fans were watching live, the moment was one of the most memorable of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, and it capped off a redemption story worthy of Hollywood.

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A five-point lead in the ninth end is about as insurmountable as curling leads come at that level, and indeed Team Shuster held on to score the first gold medal in U.S. curling history.

Officially out of Duluth Curling Club in Minnesota, Team Shuster consisted of three Minnesota natives in lead John Landsteiner, third Tyler George and skip Shuster. Third Matt Hamilton hails from McFarland, Wisconsin.  Fifth Joe Polo is also from Minnesota.

The previous high-water mark for American curling was a bronze medal in Torino in 2006, where Shuster was the lead on skip Pete Fenson’s team that earned the country’s first Olympic medal. Elevated to skip for the 2010 and 2014 Olympic teams, however, Shuster’s experiences weren’t quite so memorable. His team finished last in Vancouver and next to last in Sochi.

After the Sochi Games, Shuster was dropped from the U.S. team. George and Hamilton also did not make the team and opted to form a team of self-proclaimed “rejects” with Shuster. The redemption story had begun.

Curling enjoys a spike of popularity during every Olympic Games, but the men of Team Shuster experienced a whole new level of stardom for curlers in the U.S. The boys have been on every show from “TODAY” to “The Tonight Show.” They dropped the puck at an outdoor NHL game and blew a big ceremonial horn before a Minnesota Vikings game — minus diehard Green Bay Packers supporter Hamilton.

The team was awarded Best Male Team of PyeongChang 2018 by the Association of National Olympic Committees.

The wins kept coming on the ice, too. Team Shuster — now with Chris Plys at third after George elected to take some time away from competition — won the second leg of the Curling World Cup earlier in December. They beat Niklas Edin and Sweden in an Olympic rematch.

Not a bad year for a bunch of rejects.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.