U.S. Olympic curling trials men’s finals set; oldest athlete eliminated

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John Shuster is two wins from becoming the second American to curl at four Olympics.

Shuster, an Olympic bronze medalist in 2006 and skip in 2010 and 2014, leads a team that will play a rink skipped by 41-year-old Heath McCormick in the U.S. Olympic Trials finals in Omaha.

The best-of-three series to determine the U.S. Olympic team starts Thursday night on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. A full trials broadcast schedule is here.

Shuster’s team went 6-2 against four other teams in round-robin play, easily advancing to the finals.

McCormick, who was third at the 2014 Olympic Trials won by Shuster, squeezed into the finals by beating 49-year-old Todd Birr‘s team 8-6 in a tiebreaker Thursday morning. Both teams were 4-4 in round-robin.

Birr, 49 and the oldest male or female curler at trials, was trying to become the oldest U.S. Winter Olympic competitor in 70 years.

Shuster’s team beat McCormick’s team 7-5 and 6-5 in their two round-robin games this past week. They are the top U.S. teams in the world rankings (Shuster is 18th; McCormick 20th).

Shuster, 35, hopes to join Debbie McCormick (unrelated to Heath) as the only American curlers to compete at four Olympics.

The women’s finals also feature the top two ranked teams skipped by Nina Roth and Jamie Sinclair. No woman in the trials field has Olympic experience.

The U.S. has earned one Olympic curling medal, that 2006 men’s bronze. Curling was part of the Winter Games in 1924 and every Olympics since 1998.

Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Great Britain are the world powers in curling.

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Curling Olympic Trials Schedule

Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October. Chen is the only undefeated skater this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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