Northland curlers earn berth in Winter OlympicsThe Duluth Curling Club quartet of John Shuster, Jeff Isaacson, John Landsteiner and Jared Zezel is headed to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
John Shuster will need to find a long-term babysitter, Jeff Isaacson’s middle-school science students will need a substitute teacher, John Landsteiner might have to use up all his vacation time and Jared Zezel will have to postpone his college studies for another semester.
The Duluth Curling Club quartet is headed to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Shuster’s rink defeated Jiri Snitil’s Czech Republic team 8-5 on Sunday in a winner-take-all match in the Olympic Qualification Event at BLZ Arena in Fuessen, Germany.
A five-point eighth end gave Shuster (Duluth), Isaacson (Gilbert), Zezel (Hibbing) and Landsteiner (Duluth) a comfortable cushion over Snitil’s rink, which had defeated Shuster in the round-robin portion of the competition.
“The butterflies of winning for an opportunity like this, they never get old. That’s why we play this game,” Shuster, a 31-year-old new father and 2006 Olympic bronze medalist, said in a news release. “These guys work their tails off and they’re some of the best in the business. I’m extremely proud of how well our team has played the entire season and especially here when we had our backs against the wall.”
Facing elimination multiple times in the past week, Team USA persevered to win its final five matches.
“We always seem to pick it up and bring it up the next step and find a way to play better in a game,” Landsteiner said.
The game against the Czechs was tight until the game-changing eighth end when the Americans scored five points to take a 7-3 lead.
“The five-ender — sometimes they just come out of nowhere,” said Isaacson, a 30-year-old science teacher at Gilbert Middle School who made his Olympic debut in 2010. “We played a good end and got some rocks positioned well.
“Truthfully, I didn’t envision I’d be back (at the Olympics). There are so many great teams you have to go through … and it’s such a process and life takes over so you never know. You have to take them when you can.”
The Czechs scored two points in the ninth end but the U.S. had a two-point lead and the last-rock advantage — the ideal situation for the Americans. They kept the rings relatively tidy and Shuster clinched the win with a takeout.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time — that’s why you curl — with the main goal of getting to the Olympics,” Zezel, a 22-year-old Bemidji State student, told usacurl.org. “I’ve been working really hard ever since juniors and when John (Shuster) picked me up, I thought it would probably be a pretty good chance to get to Sochi. He taught us a whole bunch of stuff, and we just kept getting better and better.”
The foursome won the U.S. Olympic Trials last month in Fargo, N.D., but still needed to finish in the top two in the eight-team qualifying event due to poor U.S. finishes in the previous two World Championships.
“This is way better than winning Fargo. It actually might sink in this time as opposed to before,” said Landsteiner, 23, who works for Lake Superior Consulting in Duluth. “Playing at the Olympics? There won’t be anything like it.”
The U.S. men will travel to Scotland for a World Curling Tour competition in early January, and will be a part of Team North America at the 2014 World Financial Group Continental Cup in Las Vegas in mid-January in preparation for February’s Olympics.