Curler John Shuster’s Latest Comeback Lands Him In Fifth Straight Olympic Games

by Todd Kortemeier

John Shuster celebrates after winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to advance to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Nov. 21, 2021 in Omaha, Neb. 


After dropping the first game of the final series at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling, John Shuster found himself in a familiar position — in need of a comeback.
Fortunately, he was just the man for the job. In his decorated career thus far, Shuster has rallied from all manner of setbacks. In fact, it’s when he thinks he and his team are at their best.
“We’ve had our backs against the wall and had to win before,” Shuster said following that Game 1 loss Nov. 19 in Omaha, Nebraska. “Honestly, throughout our careers we’ve all been in that position. A lot of times we battle our hardest when our backs are against the wall.”
Shuster’s words proved prophetic as he and teammates Chris Plys, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner went out and won the next two games against Team Dropkin to secure the Olympic berth that came with it. It was almost a mirror image of four years ago, when Shuster rallied from a first-game loss to win the 2017 trials. Then, at the Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018, came another rally. 
Team Shuster — with the now-retired Tyler George at third instead of Plys — started off 2-4 only to finish with wins over Canada, Switzerland and Great Britain, all of whom the Americans trailed in the standings. They then upset Canada again in the semifinals to reach the gold-medal game, where Shuster hit a memorable shot for five in the eighth end to all but seal the first-ever curling gold medal for the United States.
“When your back’s against the wall, that’s where your character really shows and the character of everybody on our team,” Shuster said after securing the Olympic berth in Omaha. “We’re all fighters. I think we’ve proven that plenty of times.”

John Shuster delivers a stone during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Nov. 19, 2021 in Omaha, Neb.


All those comebacks on the ice may not have been possible without the comeback Shuster needed to resurrect his own career seven years ago. 
Shuster has been one of the best men’s curlers in the U.S. for nearly two decades, winning his first of seven national championships in 2003. The 39-year-old native of Chisholm, Minnesota, made his first Olympic team in 2006, winning the bronze medal on a team skipped by Pete Fenson.
Shuster would skip his own team at the Games for the first time in 2010, where the team would finish 10th. A further disappointing finish in 2014 led Shuster and teammate Landsteiner to be dropped from USA Curling’s High Performance Program.
Shuster and Landsteiner opted to form a new team with Hamilton and George — styling themselves the “rejects” — which revitalized their careers. The team won the 2015 national championship and then performed well at worlds, narrowly missing the playoff round. They would win a world bronze medal in 2016, the first medal for a U.S. men’s team at worlds since 2007. Then came the historic Olympic gold medal and a storybook ending to Shuster’s comeback. 
In the aftermath of securing their latest Olympic berth, Shuster credited the team chemistry and relationships they’ve formed as integral to their success.
“This team, I mean the 2018 team we had an unbelievable bond and friendship and obviously three of the four of us are the same,” Shuster said. “The relationships you develop with curling teams over time, and I’ve been with John Landsteiner now for over a decade and Matt for eight years and Chris feels like he’s played with us for a decade. The more you play with people, the closer you become. 
“… The trust factor that you develop by developing those relationships on and off the ice make it where you know when times get tough on the ice that you can lean on each other.”

(Front Row L-R) John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, Chris Plys, John Shuster and coach Sean Beighton (back) pose after winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Nov. 21, 2021 in Omaha, Neb. 


Teammates like Landsteiner have also noticed a change in Shuster over time, growing into an even more confident leader than before who sets the tone for his teammates.
“It’s extremely comforting to me,” Landsteiner said of Shuster’s confidence. “I’ve been playing with John for 10 or 11 years now and I’ve been through the part of his life where he wasn’t like that all the time. So, to see that and kind of develop our teams with him and see how prepared he is now is really special and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
While Shuster and company may be more familiar with the underdog role, at least when it comes to the international stage, they know that will no longer be the case as the Olympic champions. They are used to being the hunted when it comes to the Olympic trials, however, and Shuster believes that high level of competition will serve them well once they hit the ice in China.
“It’s definitely going to be special to get a chance to go back and try to see what we can do and see if we can’t get another gold,” Shuster said. “Obviously, I’m sure now that we’re going back there’s going to be maybe a little bit of a target that other countries are going to put on us. As hard as Team Dropkin pushed us at (trials), if we can come out and play with that type of game planning, that type of intensity when we’re going to be in Beijing, I really think that we’re going to do well.”


Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.