American curling's golden boy wants more

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The shine of Olympic gold hasn't worn off for American skip John Shuster.

In fact, to commemorate his team's historic championship win last February in Pyeongchang, Shuster's team is playing with new gold-coloured brooms this season. 

"We thought it would be a fun deal. The gold-medal edition," Shuster said with a smile. "We have a lot of people who are interested in owning them."

After topping the Olympic podium, Shuster's team got the brooms to match their medals. (Devin Heroux/CBC)They’re certainly eye-catching. At this week’s Tour Challenge Grand Slam event, where Shuster’s rink started a perfect 3-0, the flashy brooms can be seen flickering in the TV lights with every sweep.

Meanwhile, the colourful skip still seems to have an Olympic-sized bounce in his step. A golden swagger, if you will?

"It's not a swagger," Shuster insists. "There's just no pressure anymore. I have way too much respect for the other top teams in this game."

It's a story many in the curling world won't forget for a long time. After an uneven start in Pyeongchang, the American team caught fire and closed with a thrilling run that included two victories over Canada before defeating Sweden to win the United States' first-ever curling gold medal. Some even dubbed it the Miracle on Ice Part 2.

While Shuster admits to it all being somewhat magical, he doesn't really look at it as a miracle. 

"We have that feather in our cap, but we won a curling tournament that just happened to be the biggest one in the world," he said. 

More Americans than ever

Though Shuster is doing his best to stay grounded after the euphoria of the Olympics, American curlers are feeling really good right now about the state of the game in their country.

And why not? All one has to do is look out on the ice in Thunder Bay to see just how far U.S. curling has come. There are a record eight American teams playing in this week's Grand Slam.

"I don't take credit for any of this from this last Olympic cycle," Shuster said. "I've been a student of the game since I first stepped on the ice years ago. Over the last five or six years I thought I could share that with our coaches and players to make sure we're doing the best practices the rest of the world is using."

It seems to be paying off. But as much as Shuster has done to help raise curling's profile in a country that has only recently warmed up to the game, he still thinks he has work to do.

Shuster's third, Tyler George, left the team during the off-season. Chris Plys has joined a foursome that's hitting the reset button in an attempt to build towards the 2022 Olympics. 

This year, though, the goals are very clear. 

"I want to do better in the Grand Slams," Shuster said. "Winning a Slam and a world championship is still on the list. We want to enjoy curling and get Chris a national championship. He's an incredible player that hasn't won the men's national championship."

The goals are loftier. The confidence is at an all-time high. American curling is on the rise. This is no time to look back.

"You can't take your foot off the gas," Shuster said. "You can't rest on what we've done."

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