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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Olympics spoiler alert: Men's curling

AP Sports Writer

Article on U.S. men's curling vs. Germany.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — John Shuster shook his head, his frustration all too clear.

Shuster and the rest of his U.S. curling foursome could hardly complain about their chances against Germany. There were plenty of them in the team’s Olympic opener, and the Americans failed to follow through in a 7-5 loss to the experienced Germans on Tuesday.
German skip Andy Kapp never even had to release his final rock. He took out two U.S. stones with his next-to-last throw to secure the victory.
The shot-making by Shuster & Co. wasn’t nearly as good. Shuster liked his shot selection — the rock just didn’t curl the way he hoped.
“I had three rocks through the course of the game, or four rocks, that just didn’t quite curl enough,” Shuster said. “Any time you have that happen and end up giving up a steal instead of scoring two, it’s a bad deal. The crazy part is we thought I threw them OK. It’s one of those weird deals where you’re very close.”
In this sport, precision in throwing the granite stone is paramount, and a matter of mere inches can determine who wins. The Americans, ranked fourth in the world, get another chance Tuesday night against Norway but find themselves in an early hole.
“We’re not going to look back, we’re only going to look forward,” said Shuster, whose lifelong buddy from tiny Chisholm, Minn., is vice skip Jason Smith.
While the Americans had their share of red, white and blue supporters in the stands at the 5,600-seat Vancouver Olympic Centre, it was the home fans who rocked this house for the opening day of competition.
Cowbells clanged and feet stomped as skip Kevin Martin and the favored Canadians had to go the distance to hold off Norway in their first match, winning 7-6 in an extra end on Martin’s hammer throw.
Shuster, bronze medalist in Turin four years ago, considers his team a medal contender. Several players have hinted that more than three losses might be too many to reach the semifinals following the initial nine-game, round-robin schedule.
“We’re not thinking about that right now,” Shuster said.
These guys aren’t known to panic or let themselves get too high or too low when it comes to results — especially this early.
“It happens, it’s the first game of it,” Smith said. “We’re not done yet. There are a lot of games left. Just forget about it and move on.”
Germany got steady outings from everybody and Kapp was hopeful the strong start would provide his team with momentum.
“We played really well,” said Kapp, a three-time Olympian. “It took a little bit of time to get the right shots, but at the end I made all the shots. It’s always nice to win the first game. That’s one point nobody can take away from us.”
The teams played an aggressive third end, with a combined nine rocks in the house at one point. But the U.S. foursome failed to come away with a point as Germany got two for a 3-1 lead. They evened it in the fourth with a deuce. Shuster’s throw to close the sixth end went to official measurement, but Germany was closer to button and took a 5-3 lead.
The easygoing Americans — Shuster was the only player in the morning matches sporting a baseball cap — bumped fists and seemed plenty loose before the first rock was thrown.
“We just missed a couple of line calls on John’s shots,” U.S. lead John Benton said. “That cost us chances for a couple of deuces. I’m pretty positive about how we played today. I don’t think anybody is going to go through undefeated. It’s a really, really deep field. I think it’s a good sign we came out and played well. We didn’t have any Olympic jitters. It’s all good.”
Shuster was asked whether he had to fight off any nerves.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so comfortable on a sheet of ice.”
Elsewhere, Britain, the 2009 world champion and Canada’s top rival, was upset in its opener. David Murdoch’s team lost 6-4 to Sweden. Switzerland held off Denmark 6-5.