Canada added a sixth Olympic men’s curling medal with an 8-5 win over the United States in the bronze medal game Friday in China.
The Canadian team took the lead over the U.S. in the eighth and added a steal of two in the ninth that was ultimately the decider in the win.
“It's the toughest game I've ever had to play because I wanted it so bad, but I just didn't feel everything was there," Canadian skip Brad Gushue told reporters after the game. "I gave everything I could, and we gave everything we could, and we're fortunate to come out on top."
With the loss, the U.S. continues its streak of never winning a curling medal in back-to-back Olympics. Canada's bronze extend its lead for the most men's curling medals of any country all-time.
Here's how the game was won for the Canadians:
Gushue got a takeout on the final throw to give Canada two and an early lead.
The U.S. came up short on getting a double takeout on its second-to-last throw, leaving a Canadian stone on the far side of the 12-foot. Gushue then left another stone at the top of the house, making a double takeout impossible for U.S. skip John Shuster.
Team USA instead settled for a simple draw for one, going into the third trailing, 2-1.
Canada missed several shots in the end, allowing the U.S. to lie four stones alone in the house with one throw remaining.
On Canada’s second-to-last throw, Gushue took out one of the U.S. stones sitting on the button and kept his own rock there, which was then easily removed by Shuster. The U.S. still left a path to the button for Gushue, though, and he took it for one point to extend Canada’s lead, 3-1.
Gushue picked up a double takeout on Canada’s final throw, but left the U.S. lying one with an open draw to the house. Shuster landed the draw for two that tied the score at 3-3.
Canada had plans to blank the end, and the U.S. was happy to oblige. But Gushue’s final takeout attempt on the hammer throw came up light, knocking the U.S.’s rock out but then staying in for one point. Canada took a 4-3 lead, but lost hammer going into the halftime break.
Despite Canada taking the lead after five, the momentum seemed to completely shift to the U.S.’s favor, at least for a time. Shuster got a takeout on his first throw to lie two, and Gushue missed on a double takeout attempt. That opened up an easy draw on the U.S.’s hammer throw for two points and the lead right back, 5-4.
Shuster got a takeout on his first throw, but couldn’t keep his rock in the house, which seemed to shift momentum in the end back to Canada.
But Gushue made a similar mistake on Canada’s penultimate shot, overcurling the throw and missing everything as the rock sailed past the house.
Shuster responded by putting the U.S.’s final rock at the top of the 8-foot next to another one of their stones, setting up a difficult double takeout by Gushue. The Canadian skip’s throw had just enough weight to get all rocks out and blank the end, giving Canada hammer going into the eighth.
The blanked seventh was when the tides turned for good in the game.
A mistake by the U.S. seemed to end up working out for a time because of a mistake by Canada on the next throw.
Shuster needed another great shot on the U.S.’s final throw of the eighth, but couldn’t land the hit-and-roll. With Canada already sitting two just around the button, Gushue had a chance at three, but again threw too heavy, taking the last stone to the outside of the 4-foot just inches beyond the U.S.’s closest rock.
The Canadians still came away with two in the end to retake the lead 6-5, and they wouldn't relinquish it from there.
Canada was lying two on the front and back of the 4-foot with just the U.S. hammer throw remaining. Shuster’s attempt to go around the guard and take both out was too light and rolled too far, allowing Canada to steal two for an 8-5 lead heading into the final end.
Canada did its job of not allowing the U.S. to get anywhere near the button early in the end. As the U.S. threw guards in hopes of later putting their own stones behind them, the Canadians would peel out each one, as Team USA's rocks got fewer and fewer.
"When we got that steal of two in nine, my mind started to jump ahead, but I knew we still had work to do in the last end," Gushue told reporters after the game. "It was just so tough. I really just tried to stay, as cliched as it sounds, in the moment, focused on one rock at a time."
Canada sat two around the button, with two U.S. rocks surrounding them. On Canada’s second to last throw, Gushue came up with the big shot he needed, sending a heater into the house that knocked out both U.S. stones.
With just two rocks remaining and a 3-point deficit, Team USA had no choice but to concede the end and the game from there.
The bronze medal is the second for Gushue, who took home gold with Canada at the 2006 Games. The gap between medals (15 year, 11 months, and 25 days) is the longest between Olympic medals for any curler.
"You see some athletes that miss one Olympics but get to go again, and we missed three," Gushue said. "We had 16 years in between, watching other people come in and have this experience and us wanting to get back. So when we got here, we knew how special it was and how much we want to enjoy it. We certainly enjoy the moment, we do enjoy the opportunity. And to walk away with a bronze medal, it's pretty special."
"He’s an incredible curler," Shuster said of Gushue. "They are an incredible team that worked very hard to get here. There is a reason they are one of the top couple of teams in the world."
Canada has now won at least one medal in curling at every Olympics since 1998.