Although the Summer Olympics tend to have the bigger names and more popular sports, the Winter Games bring less popular sports to national attention. Every four years for a few weeks in February, Americans embrace sports like bobsled, speed skating and curling.
American athletes like Shaun White and Apolo Anton Ohno have dominated their respective sports, but America tends to perform better in the Summer Olympics.
However, this allows underdog stories to emerge like the Miracle on Ice when the U.S. hockey brought down the Soviet Union in 1980, who were the superpower in the sport at the time.
This year, another miracle occurred on ice when the U.S. men’s curling team won the gold medal in Pyeongchang, their first gold medal in the sport.
Skipper, or captain, John Shuster was a part of the U.S. team that won bronze in 2006, but the following two Olympics were disastrous for Shuster and his teams.
In the Urban Dictionary, the word shuster was defined as “a verb meaning to fail to meet expectations, particularly at a moment critical for success or even slightly respectable results.” Shuster and his team came to be known as Team Reject. This year’s team included Shuster, John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, Tyler George, and alternate Joe Polo.
In Pyeongchang, Shuster and the American team looked like they were headed for another disappointing Olympics, starting 2-4 and nearing elimination during the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Then, the comeback began as the Americans won three straight games to advance into the semifinals where they proceeded to defeat the favored Canadians. The Canadians were the three-time defending gold medalists, and this was the second time in the tournament that the Americans defeated them.
The gold-medal game matched the USA with the top-ranked Swedish team. The game was close throughout, with the teams tied 5-5 entering the eighth end. The eighth end was the key point in the game, and Shuster bounced back from some early struggles to perfectly execute a double takeout to earn the Americans an incredible five points and extend the lead to 10-5, a practically insurmountable lead.
The United States went on to win the match 10-7 and bring home the gold, an incredible rise to glory after finishing last and second-to-last in the two previous Olympics.
Curling draws the attention of America every four years during the Olympics. Unlike many sports, these athletes are non-assuming and do not appear to possess any extraordinary athletic gifts or talents.
On top of that, they work regular jobs outside of curling. For example, George owns his own liquor store, Landsteiner works as an engineer, and Shuster works at a Dick’s Sporting Goods.
While the Winter Olympics have seen a dip in viewership, the run to the gold medal was exciting, and people stayed up early into the morning to see the conclusion of the match, which finished after 4 a.m. on the East Coast.
According to TV rating systems, NBCSN garnered a 1.01 metered market ratings at one point during the game, the second-best late-night rating in the cable net’s history.
The American rise from the gutter to the gold medal is a heart-warming story. Could the Mira-curl on Ice come to join the Miracle on Ice as the notable moments in USA Winter Olympic history?