SOCHI, RUSSIA – Curling is one of the darlings of the Winter Olympics. Like a man-sized chess match, the odds change with every move.
The game may look simple – the athletes seem like everyday people – but there’s a lot more to the sport than what meets the eye. Even though the competitors don’t have professional careers in the sport, they are fully committed when it comes to the Olympics.
A newbie to curling? Look here for Curling 101.
“My dad still curls, in beer leagues,” Minnesota native John Shuster, who is in his third Olympic Games, joked. He manages a restaurant when he’s not competing for the Red, White and Blue. “It’s fun to get a chance to represent our sport and our country,” he said.
Shuster lives a pretty anonymous life for three years and 11 months, only to be approached before and during the Olympics. But he doesn’t mind. “It’s great to have the attention and share the sport because we love this game,” Shuster said.
The Americans may not be favored to win at this year’s Games, but it certainly hasn’t killed the team’s spirit. “We may surprise some people who see us eighth out of 10 teams,” Shuster said.
On Monday, the men’s team will face fourth-ranked Norway and the women face Switzerland, also ranked fourth. “They look awesome,” Shuster said of the Norwegian team. “Their front-end guys have visited us in Duluth. It’s always fun to play them.”
Sportsmanship is key during curling, especially since it’s a game without referees. The athletes call penalties on themselves, including when someone swears. “People can hear you talking because we’re mic’ed up all the time,” Shuster said.
And people will be listening … and watching.
Follow Brian A. Shactman on Twitter @bshactman