John Shuster

John Shuster’s rink dominates to win U.S. Olympic Curling Trials

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Curling games can take more than three hours. John Shuster‘s rink finished off Pete Fenson‘s rink in under 90 minutes at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday.

Fenson conceded the third game in a best-of-three championship series after falling behind 11-1 after four of 10 regulation ends in Fargo, N.D., shaking hands with Shuster to end it early.

Shuster’s rink will now head to an international Olympic qualifier in December with hopes of earning the U.S. and his rink a spot in Sochi.

How surprising was the blowout?

“A little bit, but we decided today that we weren’t going to let these guys get comfortable on the ice,” Shuster said on NBCSN. “We were going to come after them right away and see if we couldn’t conjure up something big and get a big lead.”

Shuster had scored five points in the third end to take a commanding 7-1 lead, and then four more in the fourth to take an all-but-insurmountable edge not even halfway through.

It was a stunning one-sided game after the first two between the rinks were tied after regulation on Friday and Saturday and went 11 ends. Shuster won the opener 9-8. Fenson forced a third game with a 5-4 win Saturday.

It’s notable that Fenson rallied from 8-3 down after seven ends on Friday. He must have believed that a 10-point deficit with three more ends to make it up than Friday was too much.

“At that point in the game, it wasn’t all that difficult,” Fenson said, according to USA Today. “We were so far behind that was really no catching up anyway.”

Shuster won the trials, but his rink is not guaranteed an Olympic berth.

The next step is what’s called the Olympic Qualification Event from Dec. 10-15 in Füssen, Germany, because the U.S. did not qualify for Sochi via results at the last two World Championships.

The top two from the Olympic Qualification Event will earn the final spots at the Olympics.

The U.S. is favored to take one of those two spots given it’s the highest-ranked nation in the Olympic Qualification Event field (eighth overall) and has qualified into every Olympic curling tournament since the sport returned to the Games in 1998.

Shuster called it a “B qualifier.”

“We’ve played against pretty much all the teams that are there, and we’ve had a lot of success against them,” Shuster said. “We’re going to celebrate this tonight, but go back to work, like they say, tomorrow.”

Fenson, 45, skipped the U.S. rink that won bronze at the 2006 Olympics. Shuster was also on that rink and then led his own rink to the 2010 Olympics, where he was briefly benched after a poor start.

Shuster, 31, is the manager of Pickwick Restaurant & Pub in Duluth, Minn. His vice skip is Jeff Isaacson, 30, a science teacher from Gilbert, Minn., who was also on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team that was knocked out in round-robin play.

The last two members of the team will be Olympic rookies, should they qualify. Second Jared Zezel, 22, is a Bemidji State student and a relative of the late NHL player Peter Zezel.

Lead John Landsteiner, 23, is an engineer from Duluth.

“There’s not a weak spot on our team,” Shuster said. “Every single one of these guys is one of the best in the world at each position, respectively.”

All-Star team of U.S. curling wins women’s trials

Kyle Snyder savors Russian Tank showdown

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U.S. wrestler Kyle Snyder waited 2 1/2 years for this news. The Russian Tank is moving up to 97kg.

Abdulrashid Sadulayev, a 21-year-old from Dagestan with the foreboding nickname, is undefeated at the senior international level since November 2013. He won the 2014 and 2015 World freestyle titles and 2016 Olympic gold at 86kg.

Sadulayev hasn’t competed since Rio but is believed to be shifting to 97kg for the Russian Championships. The news spread Sunday.

Snyder, a 21-year-old from Maryland, owns the 97kg division. He is the reigning Olympic and world champion but does not quite carry Sadulayev’s reputation. No man does.

Snyder is 13-3 internationally since Rio. He also showed grit to cap an undefeated college season, repeating as national champion for Ohio State by overcoming a rib injury and pain-killing shots at NCAAs.

Snyder is training for the U.S. trials for the world championships in two weeks, when he’ll have a bye into the final. But that preparation was interrupted Sunday when Snyder saw the Sadulayev news on Twitter.

“I know as much as, like, anybody else,” Snyder said by phone Monday evening. “I just saw it on Twitter, and people were confirming it, pretty reliable sources. Not 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure.

“My gut reaction is excited, happy. When I first saw it, I smiled because this is like an exciting match for the wrestling community, wrestling fans, and it’s an exciting match for me. It motivates me to continue to grow and continue to improve in wrestling.”

Snyder calls Sadulayev the world’s best pound-for-pound wrestler, ranking ahead of Turkey’s Taha Akgul, also a 2014 and 2015 World champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist.

Snyder has interacted with a fake Sadulayev Twitter account, but never spoken with the Russian. He believes they have shaken hands, though.

Better is Snyder’s familiarity with Sadulayev’s wrestling. He first dreamed of facing him in 2014, while watching the world championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on a web stream.

There, an 18-year-old Sadulayev manhandled men up to 11 years older, winning four of five matches by the 10-point mercy rule.

Snyder has watched all four of Sadulayev’s matches from Rio, where the Russian bulldozed to gold by a combined 28-1 margin. Snyder was 28-8 across his four wins.

“[Sadulayev] has got a very good stance,” Snyder said. “It’s very difficult to get to his legs and to break his positioning. He’s a very good finisher once he gets your leg, and he’s very good on top.”

Snyder compared the challenge of facing Sadulayev to that of another Russian, Abdusalam Gadisov, the 2014 World champion whom Snyder edged in the 2015 Worlds 97kg final.

Except Gadisov is six years older than Snyder and such a stalwart that Snyder had been watching Gadisov’s film since the seventh grade. And Gadisov didn’t make Russia’s Olympic team.

Snyder knows one American who has faced Sadulayev in competition and maybe another one or two who grappled with him in training.

Sadulayev reportedly suffered a partial knee tear months before the Olympics. He hasn’t competed since Rio, taking time off for marriage, according to USA Wrestling.

“I know that he was hurt after the Olympics, and he’s had a lot of recovery and treatments,” Snyder said.

The possibility of facing Sadulayev is so enticing that Snyder doesn’t mind discussing it despite the fact neither wrestler is guaranteed a worlds spot.

Snyder goes into the U.S. trials in two weeks as a decided favorite, though. His biggest domestic competition the previous two years was 2012 Olympic champion Jake Varner, who Snyder said won’t be at trials.

“I’m a better wrestler than I was last year,” Snyder said. “No matter how many titles I get, I don’t think I’ll ever feel pressure to win because I care more about competing hard and wrestling hard and trying to score a lot of points than I do winning.”

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Henrik Lundqvist joins Swedish throng in song at world title celebration

Henrik Lundqvist
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Singing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist joined thousands of his closest Swedish friends to celebrate their world hockey title in a central Stockholm square Monday afternoon.

The event at Sergel Square attracted the country’s prime minister (who was partially booed), Swedish royals and a flyover by the Swedish Air Force, according to German press agency DPA. Even the pregnant 2015 Miss Sweden found a way to honor the team.

Sweden won its 10th world title Sunday, ousting two-time defending champion Canada 2-1 in a shootout and at least somewhat avenging its Sochi Olympic final defeat.

The Swedish roster included NHL players who, as of now, won’t be participating in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Such as Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored one of Sweden’s two shootout goals, three years after being suspended from the Olympic final for testing positive for pseudoephedrine.

And Lundqvist, who flew to the worlds co-hosted by France and Germany to join the team mid-tournament after his New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Lundqvist stopped all four Canadian shots in the shootout, capping an exceptional stint with the team. He arrived to play the last five games and tallied a 1.31 goals-against average and .946 save percentage, the best among all goalies who played in more than two games at the tournament.

Lundqvist, 35, joined Sweden at worlds for the first time since 2008 after his identical twin brother, Joel, reached out, according to The New York Times. Joel, a former NHL forward, is the Swedish team captain but didn’t make the Olympics in 2006, 2010 or 2014, like Henrik did (winning gold in 2006).

The Lundqvist brothers had not played on the same team in 12 years. With Joel not playing in the NHL, it might be his turn to suit up at the Olympics next year, while Henrik stays in the U.S.

“Sitting in New York, 10 days ago or so, this is what I pictured myself, to be here with my brother, to hold this trophy,” Lundqvist said Sunday.

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