The skipper of the 'Miracurl on Ice' curling team was cut from Team USA after Sochi so he lost 35 pounds, formed his own team of 'rejects,' and won gold

Cork Gaines
John Shuster Winter Olympics

John Sibley/Reuters

  • Team USA won an improbable gold medal in men's curling with a "Miracurl on Ice" win over Sweden in the gold medal match.
  • The team of "rejects" was led by John Shuster who had been cut by USA Curling after a disappointing performance in Sochi in 2014.
  • Shuster rededicated himself to the sport and formed a team with other players rejected by USA Curling and beat their own replacements along the way.

Team USA's men's curling team shocked the world on Saturday when they completed a comeback from their struggles early in the Olympics to beat Sweden, 10-7, and win the first curling gold for the United States.

But the "Miracurl on Ice," as it is being called, may have never happened if USA Curling had their way.

The skipper of Team USA was Olympic veteran John Shuster. He was cut from Team USA after the 2014 Olympics, but instead of quitting, he got in better shape and formed his own team of "rejects."

Shuster won bronze as a member of Pete Fenson's team in 2006. But things went downhill from there. Shuster led his own teams to the next two Olympics, finishing tenth out of 10 teams in Vancouver 2010 and 11th out of 12 teams in 2014 at Sochi.

So when USA Curling started the "High Performance Program" in 2014 with the goal of improving the team's performance in international competitions, Shuster wasn't invited.

John Shuster

John Gress/ReutersAfter being cut from USA Curling, Shuster stopped eating pizza 3-4 times per week and lost 35 pounds, according to Geoff Calkins of USA Today. He also formed his own team, "The Rejects," outside the oversight of USA Curling.

Shuster picked Matt Hamilton, who had also been rejected by the USA Curling program, and talked longtime teammate John Landsteiner out of retirement after he had also not been chosen for the program, according to Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Hamilton became a star in his own right at the Olympics because of his mustache, hat, and resemblance to the popular video game character, Super Mario. He also delivered a huge takeout of two Sweden stones in the 7th end of the gold medal match.

The final piece of Shuster's team was Tyler George, a former skipper and longtime rival of Shuster. George did not participate in the USA Curling performance program because he "liked it the old way, when the curlers got to pick their own teams," according to Calkins. George was contemplating a break from curling when he joined Shuster's team.

Team Shuster went on to win the US Championships in 2015, beating teams from the USA Curling high performance program. USA Curling invited Shuster and his teammates back into the fold. But they would only join if they were allowed to stay together as a team.

"We said we’d go on the condition that we could keep the team together," George told Calkins. "This is our squad."

The "Rejects" went on to win the US Championship again in 2017, finished second in 2016, and won the US Curling Trials in 2017 to qualify for Pyeongchang.

Team Shuster started the 2018 Winter Olympics just 2-4 in round-robin play and it looked like it was just the same old US curling team. But they rattled off four straight wins over the most dominant countries in curling, including rival Canada in the semifinals.

Then, with the gold medal on the line, Shuster delivered the shot of his life in the 8th end against Sweden, delivering five points for Team USA and putting the match out of reach.

A "Miracurl" indeed.

Winter Olympics curling

John Sibley/Reuters

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