Pyeongchang 2018

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U.S. curlers reflect on success one year after Olympic gold

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Nearly a year has passed since he won gold in South Korea, and John Shuster can still smile about his transformation from obscure curler to Olympic sensation.

“It’s a lot of pinch-yourself kind of days,” he said.

Shuster is back on the ice this week, competing at the USA Curling National Championships. His team also includes two of his fellow gold medalists from 2018 — John Landsteiner and Matt Hamilton — and in a way, this event represents a return to normalcy for them all. The past year has been unlike any they’ve experienced before, an opportunity to celebrate their memorable victory and promote their sport.

“We went everywhere across the country. All summer, we were doing a lot of things — California to New York, in between,” Landsteiner said. “Barely any time at home. I think, before this event, I was home for two weeks in a row, and it was the most I’ve been home in a year and a half.”

The gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics capped a remarkable run for the much-maligned Shuster, a Minnesota native who won bronze at the 2006 Olympics but was spurned when he applied for the U.S. high performance program after the 2014 Games in Russia. Undeterred, Shuster put together a team good enough to make it to South Korea last year, and when the Americans beat Sweden for the gold medal, it was one of the highlights of the Olympics for U.S. fans.

Curling isn’t a mainstream Olympic showcase like hockey or figure skating, but it certainly has a niche among viewers who enjoy its quirks — and the relatability of the competitors. After returning home, Shuster’s team rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and was honored at an outdoor NHL game in Annapolis, Maryland.

Shuster recalls playing in a celebrity golf tournament with some other Minnesota athletes — and discovering that he had a parking space reserved for him.

“I remember pulling into the parking lot, I parked my car and I went walking by. I was like, oh, the top 10 people all have their own car parking spots, their names on it. As I was walking, it was like, Jason Zucker, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, John Shuster,” he said. “I’m like, wait a minute, I had a parking spot! There was like, probably 40 NHL and NFL players that were at this tournament, and there was only 10 people that had parking spots, and I was one of them.”

When an American team exceeds expectations at the Olympics the way Shuster’s did, a sport like curling has an opportunity to capitalize. Although the U.S. is a ways away from any kind of curling boom, there’s some evidence that the game is growing.

“Our local club here has gone from around 90 members to over 150, literally since the Olympics,” said Garnet Eckstrand of the Kalamazoo Curling Club.

There are even some new potential ambassadors gravitating to the sport . Former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jared Allen took up curling, forming a team with three other former NFL players: Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck and Titans tackle Michael Roos. Allen said he’d watched Olympic curling, and he certainly remembers Shuster’s big victory.

“They made this insane run, and it really was like, dude, that’s awesome,” Allen said. “The coolest part about it is, you can see the confidence clicking. Now when I watch them play . they know they can beat everybody.”

Allen and Roos have actually been competing at nationals in Michigan this week, although not on the same team. Shuster’s group, not surprisingly, will play for the title Saturday after mostly rolling through this tournament. The team’s game Thursday — a 9-0 victory — was so lopsided that the opponent conceded before the halfway point.

Last year, Shuster’s team didn’t compete at nationals — the tournament was around the same time as the post-gold medal victory tour. That’s not an issue this time around. There are more goals ahead for Shuster and his teammates — they have an Olympic title to defend, after all.

But even as they focus on the future, these American curling celebrities still have plenty of appreciation for what they’ve already accomplished.

“It’s been pretty incredible to see the uptick in interest, just based on us maybe winning a gold medal, but also not all that surprising,” Shuster said. “Curling has a way of hooking you, when you give it a legitimate try.”

Memories of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics still burn bright

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One year ago, the Olympic cauldron was lit at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games. Despite the flame being extinguished, the memories of the Games remain seared in history.

Remember when Shaun White, the king of the Olympic snowboard halfpipe, made his return; throwing down back-to-back 1440’s, a double McTwist and a frontside 1260 on his way to the top of the podium?

Or when the effervescent Chloe Kim, then just 17 years old, won her first Olympic halfpipe gold medal, or Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins’ historic gold medal for U.S. cross-country skiing?

What about Mikaela Shiffrin’s gold in giant slalom, or Lindsey Vonn battling back to her second Olympics after missing Sochi in 2014 due to injury, to claim bronze in the downhill?

And who could forget the U.S.’ Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s “Oops, I did it again” shootout golden goal against Canada in the women’s hockey final, or when Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel not only helped the U.S. win figure skating team bronze, but pushed her sport past what was thought possible.

The highlights of the Games just keep coming; John Shuster and his team of “rejects” winning curling gold, Ester Ledecka, the Czech snowboarder who shocked everyone, herself included, to win Super-G gold and Nathan Chen, bouncing back from a disappointing short program, to perform the Olympic free skate of his life. While Chen’s teammate, Adam Rippon, used his grace on the ice and outspoken charisma off it to wrap the world around his finger.  

Look back at these moments and more from those 16 glorious days in South Korea as Olympians of a different sort continue to prepare as their time nears at the Games of the XXXII Olympiad next summer in Tokyo on the networks of NBC.

Olympic Channel to air ‘Olympic Classics: PyeongChang Gold’

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Olympic Channel
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Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air all nine U.S. Winter Games gold-medal performances next week in a primetime series, “Olympic Classics: PyeongChang Gold.”

Shaun WhiteChloe KimMikaela Shiffrin and the U.S. women’s hockey team highlight nightly coverage Monday through Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

A 14-hour marathon of all the events will air May 5.

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Date Time (ET) Event
Monday 8 p.m. Snowboarding: Women’s Halfpipe (Chloe Kim)
9:30 p.m. Snowboarding: Men’s Halfpipe (Shaun White)
11 p.m. Encore
Tuesday 8 p.m. Snowboarding: Men’s Slopestyle (Red Gerard)
9 p.m. Snowboarding: Women’s Slopestyle (Jamie Anderson)
10 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Men’s Halfpipe (David Wise)
10:30 p.m. Encore
Wednesday 8 p.m. Alpine Skiing: Women’s Giant Slalom (Mikaela Shiffrin)
9:30 p.m. Cross-Country Skiing: Women’s Team Sprint
10:30 p.m. Encore
Thursday 8 p.m. Women’s Hockey: USA vs. Canada
11 p.m. Encore
Friday 8 p.m. Men’s Curling: USA vs. Sweden
11 p.m. Encore
Saturday 12 p.m. Snowboarding: Men’s Slopestyle
1 p.m. Snowboarding: Women’s Slopestyle
2 p.m. Snowboarding: Women’s Halfpipe
3:30 p.m. Snowboarding: Men’s Halfpipe
5 p.m. Alpine Skiing: Women’s Giant Slalom
6:30 p.m. Cross-Country Skiing: Women’s Team Sprint
7:30 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Men’s Halfpipe
8 p.m. Women’s Hockey: USA vs. Canada
11 p.m. Men’s Curling: USA vs. Sweden