(L-R) John Shuster, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner and Tyler George compete in round-robin play at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 18, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea – The U.S. Olympic men’s curling team tried to compensate for some difficult conditions in its sixth game of round-robin play, but ultimately fell to Norway on Sunday night, 8-5.
The athletes said that the stones were resurfaced right before the match. Althougth the practice is normal and necessary to maintain the quality of the granite throughout the entirety of the tournament, it’s the first time they have made the drastic change mid-tournament.
“We knew it happened,” skip John Shuster, a four-time Olympian, said. “They told us, but it really changed the way you had to throw the rock. This is the first time I think that anyone’s ever openly done it at a tournament that I’ve played in.”
During resurfacing, sand paper is used to rough up the bottom of the stones. They coarser surface makes the stones slower on the ice and curl more; this happens before the beginning of every tournament, which is why stones tend to go faster and straighter towards the end of each tournament.
Prior to a game, the members of a team carefully test out, select and pair the stones they will use based on how they glide. The resurfacing pretty much throws all that planning out the window.
Each member of Team USA was quick to point out that as frustrating as it may have been, it was something that everyone was equally affected by in this round.
“It’s not an ideal situation for any of the teams out there” vice skip Tyler George said. “They weren’t happy about it and we weren’t either but you’re not always going to get perfect ice. You just adjust the best you can. You read the ice better than the other team and you’re going to have a chance to win. That’s part of the game. I don’t want to point fingers at the ice or the rocks because when we know what’s happening, we’re trying to adjust.”
Team Shuster is hoping to learn from today as it faces No. 1-ranked Canada in the next session on Monday.
“We’ve got our toughest game of the week playing against Canada so we got to bring our A game,” said John Landsteiner, the team’s lead and a two-time Olympian. “It’s a team that we’ve had a little luck against this year. We’ve beat them once. We started off really well tonight so we just need to carry it forward to the second half and put a few more points on the board.”
Although Team USA is currently 2-4 in round robin play at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Landsteiner pointed out that a 5-4 record can earn them a tiebreaker and maybe even a spot in the playoffs.
“The highs and lows of being at the Olympics and being on the world stage is pretty crazy,” George said. “No matter what happens the rest of the week, we’re going to fight hard and I’m going to look back on this with some pretty fond memories. It’s the Olympics, what can you say?”
Cat Hendrick is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.