Shuster will become the first curler to carry the American flag at the Olympics
BEIJING (AP) — Before throwing a stone at the Beijing Games, John Shuster will become the first curler to carry the American flag at an Olympic opening ceremony.
That’s a big deal for a sport that’s growing in popularity in the United States thanks to Shuster’s Olympic exploits.
The defending gold medalist and five-time Olympian was voted by fellow American athletes to lead the United States into the Bird’s Nest on Friday with Brittany Bowe. Three-time Olympian Bowe was the first runner-up and will walk in place of bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, who tested positive for COVID-19.
The announcement of the standard bearers came shortly after competition began at the Beijing Olympics on Wednesday with the opening matches of mixed doubles curling at the Ice Cube, the reconfigured venue where Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals in swimming at the Summer Olympics 14 years ago.
Chris Plys and Vicky Persinger ended a big night in the overall standings for the Americans by hanging on to beat Olympic newcomer Australia 6-5 when Tahli Gill’s last rock whistled past an American boulder in the house.
Plys, an Olympic rookie who is also on the men’s team, took part in a video call earlier Wednesday in which Shuster was told of the honor.
“Man, I was so happy,” Plys said. “John has been a hell of a teammate to me and a hell of a friend to me and to see him get such an honor and curling get such an honor at the Olympics, in a country like the United States where curling hasn’t really been a family sport, I couldn’t be happier for him. I’m delighted to see him and to be able to share this moment with him in a few days.
Shuster and the rest of the men’s team were in Los Angeles and are due in Beijing early Friday.
“It was a very special moment,” Plys said. “I think he got a bit choked up. It’s hard to see it through the screen. But I know how much the Olympics mean to John and how proud he is to be an American and what an honor it will be for him and his family. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.
In a statement, Shuster called it “one of the greatest honors of my athletic career.”
Shuster won bronze in 2006 – the first-ever Olympic curling medal in the United States – as leader of Pete Fenson’s team. He left to form his own rink, earning a trip to Vancouver but playing so poorly he was benched.
After finishing dead last in 2010, Shuster won the US Trials again four years later, but only managed a ninth-place finish in Sochi. When USA Curling held a high performance camp of the top 10 players in the country, Shuster was not selected. So he put together a quartet called “Team Rejects” and not only beat the federation-backed teams in the US Trials, but also won gold in South Korea after surviving five matches. consecutive elimination.
The men’s competition begins next Wednesday.
The clank of the clashing granite stones and the shouts and sweeps of the mixed doubles were more pronounced than normal in the nearly empty arena. There were only a few hundred spectators in the 3,759 capacity venue due to COVID-19 protocols.
Curling takes place at the Ice Cube, which was converted from the Water Cube, the swimming and diving venue for the 2008 Summer Games. The venue can be converted back into a swimming pool.
Hosts China beat Switzerland 7-6 in an extra end, Great Britain beat Sweden 9-5 and the Czech Republic beat Norway 7-6.
Defending gold medalist John Norris of Canada and his new partner Rachel Homan will play their first match on Thursday.
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