John Shuster

U.S. men’s curling team qualifies for Olympics

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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):

Canada (1)
Great Britain (2)
Sweden (3)
Norway (4)
Switzerland (5)
Denmark (6)
China (7)
U.S. (8)
Germany (10)
Russia (12)

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.

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Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

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Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

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MORE: Dawn Staley to coach U.S. women at Tokyo 2020

Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

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When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

“I left crying and never went back to that doctor,” she said.

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

The pain returned and, by 2015, became unbearable.

She underwent another hip surgery, this one much more complicated. The operation fixed cartilage damage, cleaned up bone spurs and put more anchors in her labrum because of a slight tear with doctors warning that her hip would probably be 90 percent of what it was, according to The Associated Press.

Mancuso spent six months on crutches. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said last month. “A lot of people ask me why I’m doing it [skiing], because I can’t even walk. Why would I ski? The truth is, skiing is way easier. Skiing is fun because it is easy, and my body loves it. My body loves to ski, and my body needs to ski. … It improves my quality of life.”

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

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