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U.S. Olympic Team Curling Trials Day 10: John Shuster set to defend Olympic title

U.S. Olympic Team Curling Trials Day 10: John Shuster set to defend Olympic title
Posted at 9:31 PM, Nov 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 01:26:51-05

With his back against the wall, John Shuster got it done -- yet again. 

The 2018 gold medalist is set to return to the Olympic Games in 2022 after the team he skips defeated Team Dropkin in a winner-takes-all matchup Sunday night in Omaha at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.

Team Shuster dropped the opening game of the best-of-three men's finals on Friday, then prevailed in Saturday's matchup against the "Young Bucks" to keep its Olympic title defense alive. It was the same path Shuster followed at Olympic Trials for the 2018 PyeongChang Games, where his team edged out a squad that included Korey Dropkin.

Sunday's tightly-contested game began with two blank ends before Shuster was forced to score one point, and give up the hammer, in the third end. Dropkin did the same in the fourth, before coming to another blank end in the fifth.

Shuster, with the hammer, broke the scoring open in the sixth end with a pivotal throw to put two points on the board for his team. Team Shuster stole a point away from Team Dropkin in both the seventh and eighth ends, extending its lead to 5-1.

Dropkin, needing two points in the ninth end to keep his Olympic dream alive, got it done, making it 5-3. But it wouldn't prove enough, as his team managed just one point in the 10th end, with Team Shuster coming out on top 5-4. At 26 years old, Dropkin would have been the youngest skip to win Olympic Trials since 2006.

"You guys made me work the hardest I’ve ever worked to beat anybody in my life," Shuster told Dropkin during post-game celebrations.

Shuster, 39, will be the first person to compete in five Olympic curling tournaments as a medal sport. On the way to winning the U.S.' first Olympic curling title four years go, he led his team to victories in five straight must-win games.

Team Shuster -- which also includes Chris Plys, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner -- went 9-1 in round-robin play, with its only loss coming to Team Dropkin in the penultimate game. Hamilton and Landsteiner were also members of the 2018 gold medal team, while Plys was an Olympic alternate in 2010.

"This is the biggest team effort I've ever been involved in," Shuster said of the win.