From curl­ing out­casts to U.S. Olympic rock stars

Shus­ter and his rink have been ap­pear­ing ev­ery­where since winning in Pyeongchang

Regina Leader-Post - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES Las Ve­gas tjones@post­media.com

Four years ago, after fin­ish­ing 2-7 at the Sochi Olympics, USA Curl­ing in­formed John Shus­ter he’d no longer be part of the Amer­i­can high-per­for­mance pro­gram.

Now he’s the Olympic gold medal win­ner and one of the most fa­mous faces in the sport.

Shus­ter was flown in to do lo­cal break­fast TV shows here Fri­day and throw out the cer­e­mo­nial first rock at the open­ing cer­e­monies and be part of a pool­side pep rally for Greg Persinger’s Team USA at the world curl­ing cham­pi­onships that open Satur­day. He’ll be back to do au­to­graph ses­sions and a per­sonal ap­pear­ance at the Pool Patch next week­end.

In be­tween, Shus­ter, Tyler Ge­orge, Matt Hamil­ton and John Land­steiner will fly to their home state to throw out the cer­e­mo­nial open­ing pitches for the Min­nesota Twins’ home opener against Seat­tle on April 5.

Fri­day morn­ing, Shus­ter sat for an in­ter­view. When asked about be­ing punted from the U.S. high­per­for­mance pro­gram, he took his iPhone from his pocket and quickly re­trieved the email.

“I looked at it again just yes­ter­day, so I knew I can find it. Here it is. In July of 2014 from Derek Brown of USA Curl­ing say­ing, ‘I’m sorry, you haven’t been se­lected for part of the high­per­for­mance pro­gram.’

“I wrote him back: ‘My com­mit­ment to re­main­ing the top player/skip re­mains un­changed.’”

It tells you a lot about Shus­ter that he’s do­ing any­thing and ev­ery­thing for U.S. curl­ing to make the most of this mo­ment.

So, what has it been like be­ing a gold medal­list?

“I don’t know if there are words for it,” he said.

“You win an Olympic gold medal and you feel on top of the curl­ing world. But we’re in a dif­fer­ent galaxy of be­ing an Olympic gold medal­list. It’s bonkers.”

Get­ting rec­og­nized is not new to Shus­ter.

“We curl a lot in Canada and when we’re in Canada, we get rec­og­nized a lot walk­ing down the street. Peo­ple rec­og­nize us be­cause we’re on TV a lot in Canada. It’s fun to have that now hap­pen­ing in the U.S.

“On the el­e­va­tor, a woman looked at me and said ‘I know you.’ My coach was with me and asked her if she watched the Olympics on TV. He didn’t say curl­ing. All of a sud­den she said ‘Shus­ter!’ That hap­pens now. It never hap­pened prior to Fe­bru­ary 24.”

Shus­ter mar­vels at the post-Olympic ride he’s still on.

“We rang the bell to open the New York Stock Ex­change.

“We threw a rock on the out­door sheet of hockey ice for that Sta­dium Se­ries game (in Annapolis, Md., March 3 be­tween the Washington Cap­i­tals and Toronto Maple Leafs) be­fore 35,000 peo­ple.

“We dropped the puck at the Min­nesota Wild game, which was some­thing they don’t do very of­ten.

“In the mid­dle of the first quar­ter of the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves game, the mas­cot went out and threw some stream­ers and stuff on the ice and they an­nounced, ‘Let’s get a clean­ing crew out here.’ Matt and John went out with brooms and with rain­coats on, hid­ing their iden­tity. Then they said, ‘Wait a minute. We know who you are. Take off those coats.’ And Tyler and my­self came run­ning out. It was a sold-out game against the Hous­ton Rock­ets and in­stantly peo­ple were on their feet stand­ing. The place went deaf­en­ing. It was in­cred­i­ble.

“We were on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. That was awesome. Our whole team got to be there and sit on the couch and have a lit­tle fun with him. We did the To­day Show one time when we were in Korea and then when we were back here. Matt did some stuff with CBS in Los An­ge­les. I did some stuff with NBC in L.A. We did a lot of stuff in the Min­neapo­lis- St. Paul area. There used to be one rink with ded­i­cated curl­ing ice there. Now there are five. There likely will be 10 in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

“Thurs­day we’re go­ing to throw out the open­ing pitches for the Min­nesota Twins. That’ll be a thrill. I’m a life­time Min­nesota Twins fan.”

They have an event in Nashville com­bin­ing sports stars and coun­try and western singers, the U.S. Olympic medal win­ners’ trip to the White House, and much more.

Shus­ter could have re­turned to play in the U.S. na­tion­als the same week as the Brier was be­ing held in Regina, but de­cided not to. They did go to Fargo, N.D., for the na­tion­als and 1,000 peo­ple showed up for au­to­graphs.

“We signed for two hours and 45 min­utes, from an hour be­fore game time un­til after the fifth end break.

“We were plan­ning on play­ing in them (the na­tion­als) but as soon as we won (the Olympics), we de­cided that the op­por­tu­nity to grow the sport was at a much big­ger scale. With the chance to play in a world championship in Las Ve­gas on home ice, it was a pretty hefty trade-off.

“But I think curl­ing grow­ing in the U.S. is good for every­body in the en­tire world.”

KEVIN KING

Since winning Olympic gold in Pyeongchang, Amer­i­can curl­ing skip John Shus­ter has been in great de­mand to help sell the sport in his na­tive coun­try, ap­pear­ing on tele­vi­sion and at var­i­ous sport­ing events.

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