5 things to know about the U.S. Olympic curling team
The men’s team brings over a decade of Olympic experience, while the women’s team are all Olympic newcomers
Three members of the men’s curling team are already Olympians: skip John Shuster, lead John Landsteiner and alternate Joe Polo. Shuster and Polo were members of Pete Fenson’s rink at the 2006 Torino Olympics, where they won bronze—which is still the only Olympic medal won by a men’s or women’s curling team from the U.S. At the 2010 Olympics, Shuster moved into the skip position for his second Winter Games and finished tenth out of ten teams with a 2-7 record. None of Shuster’s 2010 teammates are still members of his rink. At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Shuster was joined by John Landsteiner on the U.S. men’s team, and they ended the round-robin round with a 2-7 record again to finish ninth.
In PyeongChang, John Shuster will become the first U.S. male curler to compete at four Olympics.
All of the members of the U.S. women’s curling team will be making their Olympic debut in 2018. They’ve come close before, though. Nina Roth played third for Erika Brown’s rink when they finished fifth at the U.S. Olympic Trials for the Vancouver Games, but wasn’t a member of her rink when Brown won the Trials for Sochi. Tabitha Peterson was on the team that finished second to Team Brown at those same Trials, while Aileen Geving competed unsuccessfully at three Olympic Trials before finally winning an Olympic berth this year.
Both teams are members of USA Curling’s High Performance Program
After the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams underperformed at 2014 Sochi Olympics, USA Curling decided to revamp the way it funds and trains its elite teams with the creation of a High Performance Program (HPP). In the past, U.S. curling teams were formed without USA Curling’s input and directed their own curling and training. Now, HPP directors assemble teams from a pool of the country’s top curlers and provide support with coaches, trainers and sports psychologists, as well as funding.
Team Roth was formed by the HPP in 2016; in the past, two players from Wisconsin and two from Minnesota probably wouldn’t have joined up to form a team, but their personalities and skills have proved to be the right fit.
Shuster’s rink, which formed in 2014, has a more dramatic creation story. A few months after skipping the men’s team at the Sochi Olympics, Shuster attended the HPP’s first athlete combine—and got cut from the national team. He took it as a wake-up call to get serious about his fitness, and found three teammates who were willing to make the same commitment. Their hard work paid off when they won gold at the 2015 U.S. National Championships, and have been in the HPP ever since.
Many of these curlers could earn a second Olympic berth in mixed doubles
Five of the athletes who won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for men’s and women’s curling have qualified to compete again at the Olympic Trials for mixed doubles curling, which will be held from Dec. 13-17 in Blaine, Minn. Mixed doubles is a curling discipline that will be making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang. In mixed doubles, curling teams consist of one man and one woman and games last only eight ends.
The top teams at the Olympic Trials for mixed doubles will be Becca and Matt Hamilton, siblings who won the national title in 2017, and Tabitha Peterson and Joe Polo, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship. Nina Roth and her partner, Kroy Nernberger, will also be competing.
The other two teams who have already qualified for Trials are Vicky Persinger and Jared Zezel, and Alex Carlson and Derrick McLean. Three more teams will be added at the discretion of USA Curling.
They’ll have to take time off from their day jobs to compete in PyeongChang
Unlike most Olympians, none of the U.S. curlers are able to train and compete full-time. All nine have either part or full-time jobs to support themselves and their families.
Nina Roth is a registered nurse, Tabitha Peterson is a pharmacist, Aileen Geving works for an insurance agency and Becca Hamilton works at a sporting goods store.
John Shuster also works at a sporting goods store, Tyler George is the manager of a liquor store, John Landsteiner is an engineer, Matt Hamilton is a research and development technician and Joe Polo works for a construction company.
Olympic medals are in their sights
The U.S. has only won one medal in Olympic curling: a bronze earned by the men’s team in 2006. But these U.S. squads, especially the men’s team, have gotten increasingly competitive in the years since the men finished ninth and the women tenth at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Shuster led his team to top-five finishes at the last three world championships: fifth in 2015, third in 2016 and fourth in 2017. The bronze medal they won at the 2016 Worlds was the first for a U.S. curling team in nine years.
While Roth’s team doesn’t have as much experience at the world championships level, they finished fifth in their worlds debut in 2017.