The U.S. curling team is now the U.S. Olympic curling team.
John Shuster and the Americans won their fifth straight game, a winner-goes-to-the-Olympics finale, 8-5 over the Czech Republic at the Olympic Qualification Event in Fuessen, Germany, on Sunday.
“The butterflies of winning an opportunity like this, they never get old,” Shuster said. “That’s why we play this game.”
The U.S. blew it open in the eighth of 10 ends, scoring five points to take a 7-3 lead over the Czechs.
“Good end, boys,” a relaxed Shuster told his rink as Billy Squire‘s “The Stroke” played inside the Bundesleistungszentrum.
Shuster made his third U.S. Olympic Team after winning bronze in 2006 and skipping the Americans to last place in 2010, when he was temporarily benched. The 31-year-old is the manager of Pickwick Restaurant & Pub in Duluth, Minn.
He’ll be joined in Sochi by his vice skip, two-time Olympian Jeff Isaacson, a science teacher from Gilbert, Minn. The team also includes first-time Olympians John Landsteiner, a 23-year-old engineer from Duluth, and Jared Zezel, a 22-year-old Bemidji State student.
Craig Brown, 38, is also on the team as an alternate. Brown is the younger brother of the U.S. women’s Olympic team skip, Erika Brown. Craig Brown is likely to be the oldest male member of the U.S. Olympic Team across all sports.
The U.S. won five straight games after opening the eight-team Olympic Qualification Event with a 2-2 record. Two teams would qualify for the Olympics from the event, so the Americans needed an above-.500 record in round-robin play to have a chance.
“These guys worked their tails off,” Shuster said. “They’re some of the best in the business. I’m just extremely proud of how well out team has played the entire season, especially when we had our backs against the wall at the start of this week.”
Here’s the full Olympic men’s curling field (nation’s World Curling Federation ranking in parentheses):
Great Britain (2)
The Olympic men’s curling tournament begins Feb. 10, the Monday after the Opening Ceremony. The U.S. will open against Norway, which is known for its pants.
The U.S. has sent men’s and women’s curling teams to every Olympics since the sport was re-added to the Games in 1998.