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Q&A with John Landsteiner

Olympics: Curling-Men's Round Robin Session 10
USA TODAY Sports

Q&A with John Landsteiner

Curling veteran John Landsteiner on his breakthrough moment and why he thinks Team USA can beat anyone in the world

Do you have another full-time job or business? How do you balance work and training?

I am a Project Engineer/Project Manager for Lake Superior Consulting. I work full time while curling, often 45-50 hours per week. I do it to support my wife and I and I also actually happen to enjoy it. I love the people I work with. I also know I can’t curl my whole life and enjoy pursuing a professional career. As long as they continue to support me and work with my schedule, I will continue to do so. I work 8-10 hours per day and have to balance my work outs and practice schedule around my work hours, whether it be getting up early in the morning, or staying out late. I also have a home to maintain and a life to balance with my wife. We enjoy our time together and I do not want to sacrifice that either.

Do you have any pets?    

Not yet, but we are hoping to get a puppy soon!! Hopefully after PyeongChang we will be looking to get a Lab or a Golden Retriever. 

In your hometown of Mapletown, Minnesota, what are your favorite spots to relax eat out, etc.?                 

My town and area is extremely small, but I always enjoy hitting up the curling club of course, but also the Thunder Bar and Restaurant in Good Thunder, MN, 10 miles from my town. I don't mind checking out Mankato once in a while, but that is the "big city" compared to my town. There aren't five places you must see in my town, I will be honest.

How much time do you spend training each day?

30 mins to 1.5 hours in summer, 1 to 3 hours in winter when ice is available.

What’s your typical training day/schedule?

In the summer during my offseason I wake up, go for a jog or run outside. I lift weights if it's weight day, then shower up and head to work.  I work, work, work. Come home and work out if I didn't do that in the morning. My wife works until 6:00 PM most nights, so I try my best to get supper started for her. We just started a workout together, so we are trying to do 30 minutes of high intensity cardio when she gets home, so my workout times vary quite a lot.

In the winter I wake up and bike on my stationary some mornings.  I shower up, go to work and work, work, work, then walk from my office to the curling club via downtown skyways (best part about where we live for curling reasons).  I practice for an hour or so, walk back to work and continue. Go home and start cooking. If we have league, I usually don't go home and just stay at the club until our game. The days get long on league nights for sure.

How do you work to achieve your daily goals?

For me, I have to really focus on what my goals are and remind myself what I need to do to meet them. I use fitness trackers and dietary trackers, etc. Since I am training very independently, this is how I keep myself in check as much as possible. I don't have a lot of opportunities for personal training since my schedule is very busy. My work requires a lot of my time and energy, both at home and when we are on the road. I am always working.

What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?

I don't have a favorite workout. My favorite part is the satisfaction of your efforts following the workout.

What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?                                                                                                                   

Not sure, but our time spent in Colorado at the Olympic Training Center always kicks my butt.

What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?

Much of my training is by myself and self-motivated. I don't have personal trainers with my lifestyle. If I could have a part-time job and still have 4-6 hours per day to commit to that part of training it would be great.

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What does a typical day of eating look like during training?

During the season, we have to eat out a lot, so our diets are very, very difficult to monitor. However, during the spring into summer and fall months, I am on a diet consisting of high protein, low carbs and tracking of calories.

If you are to indulge, what's your go-to snack?

 I like mac and cheese, kielbasa sausage, ice cream, fun stuff.

What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing curling?

I always base this answer on when I started missing Catechism class growing up, and that time frame would be around 2nd Grade. Therefore, I started playing in leagues around eight years old. I guess it just kind of clicked with me. I traveled to nearby towns a few times early on and played with my Dad in bonspiels. Old guys would call me a "ringer." I enjoyed practicing and eventually got my own key to the place. I would spend my snow days at the club throwing rock after rock. I just really enjoyed it I guess. I was kind of the only kid in my classes that actually liked curling. No one really made fun of it, they just didn't understand it.

What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?

I don't have many memories of watching the 2006 Games in Torino. At that time, I didn't follow high-level curling very much. My exposure was minimal, but in 2010, I had been in Duluth for two years in college, and my roommate and I watched as many games as we could. I don't know if I imagined myself in that position at that time. I am sure I did, but not as soon as 2014.

Was there a specific “breakthrough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?

I think there were a few I can think of. The first year I played with John Shuster, we had to qualify through to nationals. First year playing and we did that no problem, beating a few teams I considered myself to be nervous playing against. That was step one. Step two would be winning our Olympic Trials. I then had no fear of U.S. teams. Third step would be our fifth place finish at Worlds in 2015. From that point on, I have had no fear of playing anyone. That rolled into our success in 2016 and our year in 2017 as well. As a team and on a personal level right now, we know we can beat anyone.

What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?

Sweeping is the obvious answer for intensity, but that is what everyone sees. What everyone doesn't see would have to be team chemistry. My family can see it from the stands, but they have watched hundreds of our games. Most people cannot see the intensity and changes in it that happen throughout a game or a week of competition.

The hardest part of our sport is consistency in performing as well as the mental aspect. Mentally, the game can be draining.

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Are there any misconceptions about your sport that you would like to clear up?

People think that the leads shots don't matter. They can't win games, but they can lose games. Every shot matters.

Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?

Phill Drobnick. Three years now. Our relationship with Phill is good. He knows our personalities now and knows how to approach things the way they need to be approached.

Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist? If so, how did it help you?

Yes. We have had one now for three years. Working with her has been good. It has allowed for us to maintain ourselves mentally much better and provide open discussions that may not have been had before. We are able to hold ourselves more accountable as well. She has been a great asset.

What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?

For me, probably personal motivation, this is ongoing. Finding the drive to train and do my job to the best of my ability is draining and that obstacle continues on. I think I have improved tenfold in the last year. I hope to continue to improve. Self-well-being is my biggest obstacle.

What is your biggest fear when competing?

Losing is the obvious answer. I am very competitive. But really, my fear is that I may have underperformed for my teammates. I know it can be frustrating when one teammate is having an off day. I fear that when I am performing bad, that I am not meeting their expectations.

Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?

I mean it has to be John Shuster. He took a gamble and took myself and Jared Zezel under his wing for three years into the 2014 Olympics. I've been his teammate ever since then. I know ten times more about curling now than what I did when I started playing with him.

What athlete in any sport has been your greatest source of inspiration?

I always say Kirby Puckett. I was never a huge follower of sports, but Kirby Puckett seems like the kind of guy to look up to.

What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in curling?

Practice! Join a team! Keep on playing!

Who is your most interesting teammate and why?

Matt Hamilton. Find out for yourself. That phase where he drank weird milk for a while. Look at his shoes. Look at his mustache. Ask him about his coffee brewing or his 5 minute pizza oven.

Who is your biggest rival? Is it friendly or contentious?

Team McCormick. They clipped us in a couple of finals last year.

What was the best part of living in the Athletes’ Village during the Games?

The cafeteria, no doubt. Not even the McDonalds. I’m talking about the fresh fruit, veggies, and the selection of meats!  You get fresh salmon every day. Ribs, whatever you want.

Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?

My entire family and home town. It was pretty amazing seeing the support from back home when we made it to Sochi in 2014.

How and where do you train over the summer?

Weightlifting, jogging, biking, all in my garage, basement or in my neighborhood. I sometimes practice if I am driving through the Twin Cities.

What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?

Being able to say that are you an Olympian, forever.

What are your pre-competition rituals?

I don't talk much. Get changed. Do my own thing. Sometimes listen to music. Do some stretching. Help prepare the equipment. Monitor the crowd if there is one.

Do you have a nickname?

Lance (my team), Lancer (my team from 2014), Landcruiser (Pat Simmons), Landrover (Dex), Johnny (my friends from junior curling times)

Do you have any hidden talents?

I solve Rubik's Cubes. That is probably all.                     

Do you collect anything? How did your collection get started?

I collect curling pins.  I got my first curling pin (or one of the first other than a name tag), from a spiel in Owantonna, MN from Jerry Demars.  I still have it to this day.

If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?

Working all the time! Relaxing on weekends and probably be 30 pounds heavier.

When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?

I am a doer. I enjoy working on the house or in the yard getting stuff done. I actually really like cleaning. But a perfect day, I would probably have a BBQ at my house, maybe a fire pit at night and some beers and yard games. That sounds like fun.

Do you have any fears?

Yeah, I hate bees, wasps, and the like. I also hate heights.

Do you like to travel?  What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?

I enjoy being other places and experiencing them, but I have learned to hate the actual travelling part. Some of the special places would probably be Mexico on my honeymoon with my wife, and the top of Mount Pilatus outside of Lucerne.

What's something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?

I like cleaning.

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