The United States magical run through the men's curling tournament has been completed with a 10-7 victory over Sweden in the gold medal game at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
After starting 2-4, the Americans ran off five consecutive victories to take home their first-ever gold medal in curling and just their second overall.
Sweden leads by one after back-and-forth first half
After Sweden blanked the first end, they took the lead in the second end. John Shuster misfired on a double takeout with his last stone of the end and after a perfect throw to the 4-foot on his first rock, Niklas Eden converted on an easy throw for a 2-0 lead.
Tyler George set the Americans up in the third end with two outstanding shots and faced with Sweden lying one in the 4-foot and one biting on the right side, Shuster had a decision to make and when he played the double takeout to perfection, he scored two to tie the game.
The United States was all over Sweden in the fourth end, applying tons of pressure and after Edin's first shot was missed badly, his takeout attempt on his second was a bit heavy and wide, the US stole a point after a measurement showed their rock was just a bit closer.
The game was a thrilling exhibition of shotmaking by both teams and that continued into the fifth end. George's takeout meant the Americans were lying four, but Edin's throw three shots later and when Shuster's takeout attempt was heavy, the Swedish skip's draw was perfect for two to give his team a 4-3 lead heading into the halftime break.
Even through seven ends, sets up incredible finish
It's not often that Edin, considered by many as the best skip in the world, makes multiple mistakes in an end, but that's exactly what happened in the sixth. His first shot was a missed runback takeout and when his second hit-and-roll failed, Shuster's draw for two was inch-perfect to give the US a 5-4 lead.
Matt Hamilton's double takeout left the Americans lying three, putting Edin in a further jam. The Swede managed to pull off an incredible shot with his final throw to salvage a single point. The game was tied at 5-5 and headed for a finish that will go down in curling lore.
Sweden was feeling the heat all game long with Edin saying before the game that he worried his young team would feel the pressure and in the eighth end, they cracked. With several rocks in the house, the Americans were looking to pounce.
Shuster had a chance to put up a big number and on his final throw, he executed a double takeout, removing both Swedish stones in the house while scoring five to give the US a 10-5 lead. As Edin would later say "we knew we were going to lose" after Shuster's incredible shot.
Playing conservatively and just looking to eliminate as many rocks as possible from play, the Americans gave up two to take a 10-7 lead into the final end. With several guards and throw throughs, Sweden had little chance of coming back and after a spin-around on what turned out to be his final delivery, Edin and his team conceded. The US were Olympic champions and Shuster's redemption was complete.
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Post-match reaction from Team USA
Shuster said after the game "Tell you what it was a lot of fun. And that's where the week changed for us and changed for me was to allow myself to go out there and enjoy it and let the work show through. Holy cow."
After his struggles in Vancouver and Sochi in the prior two Olympics, the gold medal is a fitting way to end this incredible story. "I think what I was able to accomplish and come this this week is definitely a story that we can have forever," Shuster said. "I'm speechless for a change in my life.
"On the morning of February 19, the day we played Canada, I woke up saw it and said 'I have a choice. I have a choice to rewrite my story, to write the story of this team. That we put the work in and I wasn't going to let any thought in my head or any of that stuff get the in way of the story of this team... they deserve to have the skip who helped them get here and I'm glad I showed up."
George said Shuster's love for the game never wavered despite his previous difficulties: “When something you love so much brings you pain, it’s hard to rationalize … but when days like this happen you don’t think about that much anymore. He never has to make a shot for the rest of his life to love the game.”
He added that “It's too surreal to even think about right now. I think it's going to hit harder tomorrow but I keep waiting to wake up. I’ve not been emotional because it's just shock. To go from where we were a few days ago… the emotions, they’re bottled up and they’re building but it’s going to be a little bit before they come out.”
As US coach Phil Drobnick said “The heartbreak twice, two teams.[Shuster] handled it as well as he could handle it and learned from it. He has made himself into the best skip in the world. It’s a Cinderella story.”
USA Curling looked to rebuild the program by creating a high-performance program, inviting 10 curlers....Shuster not among them. Now he's led the Americans to Olympic gold. There's your redemption right there.
“For me and John… This time around we were able to show them what we’re capable of and we’re really proud of that,” said lead John Landsteiner, who was also omitted from the program after Sochi.
“And this team, I’m just proud of what we have all done. We’ve put in so much work together the last four years and we’ve been able to peak at the right time obviously. So I can’t imagine it means any more than the world to any of us.”
George added "We've played our best when our backs were up against the wall. We took it to another level this week. Usually we're fighting and scrapping to get into the playoffs but for five days we were the best team in the world and we did it at the right time.
"We always knew we had it in us, but to do it when it matters most is what I'm most proud of overall."
“I look back at 2006 and standing on the podium and getting an Olympic medal and that being one of the most incredible moments of life,” Shuster said. “That’s when I knew that, for me, I wanted to go there, sing my national anthem on the top of a podium.”
And now, after all of the trials and tribulations, he finally was on top of that podium, singing the national anthem as an Olympic champion, his incredible journey to redemption complete.
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