“It was a grind the whole way,” U.S. men’s curling skip John Shuster said of the 2022 Olympics for him and his team.
The U.S. had to win its final round robin game to reach the tournament semifinals, and finished the Games with two losses in close contests against Great Britain and Canada. The loss to Canada sent Team Shuster, the defending Olympic gold medalists, home in fourth place.
“We were kind of on the edge of making the playoffs the whole time, but the team played great,” Shuster told reporters following Friday’s loss to Canada in the bronze medal game. “And coming here against these teams, it’s one or two shots and it makes it sometimes hard to swallow, but I couldn’t be prouder of the way our team handled ourselves and played the last week and a half.”
“I’m proud of the work we put in to get here and the work we put in all week,” teammate John Landsteiner added. “We put ourselves in the right position. We got to the semifinals, we just couldn’t quite put it all together in the end, but we busted our butts out there and hopefully people see that.”
Even without a medal in these Games, Shuster’s two prior Olympic medals is still the most of any American curler. He and Norway’s Torger Nergaard also this year became the first curlers to compete in the Olympics five times.
Shuster said he has no immediate plans for what's next in his curling career after completing his fifth Olympics, but the 39-year-old made it clear to reporters he is not retiring and he will hopefully be back for another Games.
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“I am going to go home and go on a date with my wife. Then I will take one of my kids fishing and play video games with my other kid. Maybe I’ll do a little fishing with my dad and take a little downtime," Shuster said of his plans.
"You don’t just get put in the Olympics for the United States, you have to win your way there, so we will see. I am not retiring, but that doesn’t mean I will ever get back here.”
If Shuster does return, he plans to have his teammates – 32-year-old Matt Hamilton, 34-year-old Chris Plys, and 31-year-old Landsteiner - with him. He understands that each of his teammates is at a different point in their lives, but he would “love to keep playing with these guys.”
“We’ve talked together, our team, about what curling means to us and we’re still having a lot of fun, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team continuing forward,” Shuster said in a separate interview. “But I know all of us here have to leave here and process some stuff. All of us have families, wives, girlfriends, that kind of thing, and kids.
“I love travelling with these guys and I love being on the ice with these guys and I don’t think we’re ready to be done with that quite yet.”
The U.S. team has remained largely intact from the 2018 Games other than the addition of Plys, who replaced Tyler George who retired in 2019.
Plys said it was the support of his teammates that helped him get through a long and draining Games.
“I think there were points in times when all of us were ready to go home, but we’ve just been taking care of each other and playing for each other, and it makes it easier to be away and have tough pills to swallow when you know the guys that you’re with really have your back,” Plys said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Even without a medal, the U.S. men have brought prominence to curling in the States. They had fans from the across the country cheering them on in the middle of the night, and gained celebrity fans like Mr. T and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“It’s cool for me, but it’s better for curling as a whole,” Hamilton said. “USA curling, but curling in general, it’s cool to see it get the attention that I always felt it deserved. I just love the sport so much and it’s nice to see the world is catching on a little.”
Even though the U.S.’s time at the 2022 Olympics is over, Shuster said he was content with the way the Games played out, and he’s hopeful he can get to a sixth.
“No matter what happens, I am so happy and proud,” Shuster said. “I love playing with these guys and hope they want to keep doing it.”