Hundreds cheer curlers’ arrival at Duluth airport
Olympic-sized triumph echoed from South Korea to the Duluth International Airport on Monday as four members of the gold-medal-winning U.S. men's curling team were welcomed with cheers, chants and hugs. "Give me a U!" a pint-sized voice chimed sho...
Olympic-sized triumph echoed from South Korea to the Duluth International Airport on Monday as four members of the gold-medal-winning U.S. men's curling team were welcomed with cheers, chants and hugs.
"Give me a U!" a pint-sized voice chimed shortly after John Shuster of Superior and Tyler George, John Landsteiner and Joe Polo of Duluth came through the doors.
"U!" a crowd of several hundred people responded.
"Give me an S!"
"Give me an A!"
"What are we?"
"USA! USA! USA!"
What was announced as a welcoming party from the Duluth Curling Club blossomed into a community celebration, complete with balloons, U.S. flags and handmade posters.
"It's fun to see," said Shuster, who like his teammates was wearing his gold medal, and like them could barely advance a step without a hug or a request for a photo or autograph.
"Northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin are huge areas about community and it just reinforces that."
The teammates, who were accompanied by U.S. women's curling team members Cory Christensen and Aileen Geving of Duluth, were treated like royalty even before arriving home, said Landsteiner of Duluth.
"We got a warm welcome in Detroit, a very warm welcome in Minneapolis and an extremely warm welcome here in Duluth," he said, with a chuckle.
It was about 6 p.m. by the time the curlers walked through the gate to the hyped-up crowd. The other passengers came first, treated to some good-natured cheers of their own.
The crowd had started to form more than an hour earlier, a mixture of devoted members of the curling family and those who just wanted to be part of their communities' golden moment in the spotlight.
"My mom just wanted to come, so we came with her," said Kaitlin Traylor, 13, who tried out wearing two small U.S. flags in her hair.
John Shuster's wife Sara left South Korea ahead of the team and was at the airport with the couple's two young sons to be part of the welcome-home crowd. She laughed recalling how 4-year-old Luke found himself in arms of Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, during the gold medal match.
"I don't even know how he weaseled his way into that one," she said. "He was with Lindsey Vonn, Ivanka, rubbing elbows with everybody."
The victory already is having an impact, said Jessi Ennen, who works at the Duluth Curling Club.
"The curling club is blowing up," she said. "We get phone calls every five seconds now, and it's crazy."
Ennen arrived at the airport with balloons, signs and photos of the curlers along with Amy Swanoski and Randi Curry, the two women who were at the curling club for Saturday's wee-hours viewing party and couldn't stop crying when the team sealed their victory.
"That's the first time in my life that I've cried happy," said Curry, a Canadian who is George's girlfriend. "And I will probably cry here as well."
Once they arrived, the curlers were besieged from every side. They patiently answered every question, accepted every hug and handshake and posed for every photo request, until a Superior police officer politely tried to lead Shuster and his team toward waiting vehicles.
"Nothing can really prepare you for what you see when you walk through the door like that," George said of the reception. "Especially when it's so many people that you've know your whole life. You see their faces and the joy they have over something like this that you put so much into.
"You get to share it with your hometown. There's nothing like it."
A public celebration for all of the Northland's Olympians will take place from 4:30- 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. A program will begin at 5 p.m.