'Curling kings': Team Shuster uniting U.S. after winning Olympic gold
Americans have travelled across the country over the past month on rock star tour
LAS VEGAS — In a city where some of the biggest superstars spend their time, curlers in Las Vegas would seemingly be lost in the bustle of Sin City.
But not the American Olympic championship team of John Shuster, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner.
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They're in Vegas this weekend for the men's world curling championship and can't take five steps without being stopped for an autograph or photo.
"I had no clue this would happen," said skip Shuster. "It's fun to see the way Americans have been embracing us."
It's been a little more than a month since Shuster and his team went on a magical run in Pyeongchang, South Korea to capture the country's first Olympic gold medal in curling — some are still calling it "Miracle on Ice Part 2."
Shuster hasn't really had time to stop and think about what has happened since that golden moment but his most impactful interaction came with his cousin Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas.
"He's the biggest Minnesota sports fan I know. He said to me today, 'a Vikings Super Bowl win wouldn't live up to your win and I always imagined it would be the biggest sporting moment. But it's this,'" Shuster said.
"He's the first person who brought me to tears out of all of this."
Shuster's parents, Jackie and Tom, are loving their son's success and moment in America.
"I keep waiting to come down and it's not happening yet," Jackie said. "We can't go any place. And people are coming up to us and congratulating us. We love it. Damn proud."
Tom is also bursting with pride.
Jackie and Tom Shuster. Still basking in the glow of their son John’s gold medal Olympic curling win. I’ll have a story on the rock stars of America later today. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbccurl</a> <a href="https://t.co/gfUa8kOR3R">pic.twitter.com/gfUa8kOR3R</a>—@Devin_Heroux
"It's cool. We always thought he could be an Olympic champion," Tom said. "In 2002, we went to the Olympics in Salt Lake and we came out of the last curling event we went to and John said take my picture in front of [the] venue. Then he said, 'I'll be there in Torino 2006 and many Olympics after that.'"
Rock star curling tour
Since returning to the United States, the team has been on a rock star tour across the country. From being on late night TV shows to throwing opening pitches at baseball games and attending banquet after banquet, it's been an overwhelming last few weeks.
"Insane. Incredibly busy. This is a different world from what I'm used to," said Hamilton.
Hamilton is a bombastic character. Known for his moustache and larger-than-life persona, he's soaking up the spotlight.
"Every day people stop me to congratulate me. Everything we've been doing is unreal. It's so awesome," he said.
"I feel like royalty a little bit. It's not normal for a Wisconsin guy like me."
Spring break in Duluth
One of the moments that's really sticking out to Landsteiner through all of this is when he showed up at their home curling club in Duluth, Minn., last month and met a family who was standing outside.
"They were from Miami and flew up just to get a picture of our curling club from outside. They ended up in the curling club. I had to play a make-up game and invited them in," Landsteiner said.
"They had this little girl, she's six years old. She watched every game and she was the reason they came to Duluth for spring break in March."
Landsteiner said he knew their gold medal meant a lot to people across the country, but it was in that moment he got the full scope of it all.
"I think we knew winning the gold medal was the best thing for curling and specifically curling [in] the United States."
Curling uniting the United States
It was a different moment for George when he realized what their Olympic gold medal win meant to the United States.
The team was just getting ready to make an appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show when the big-time host came up to them before they took the stage.
"He said 'guys I don't think you realize what this means to the country,'" George said.
Fallon went on to tell the Shuster team there wasn't a lot the American people seemed to be united on right now and that their win was rallying people together.
"We never really thought about this as uniting people but to hear him say that to us, I think that was the first time we realized the impact we had on our country."
Building for the future
The hope now for Team Shuster is to capture curling magic in a bottle. There is a lot of momentum when it comes to curling in the United States right now, but the team knows how fleeting it can be.
Shuster knows what it's like to be a curler in America. Prior to the Olympics, he was much more recognized in Canada than in the States. That has changed and Shuster wants to keep it rolling.
"It could be a flash, but that's how we have to figure out how we can embrace this and build curling rinks," Shuster said.
"The big thing for me is making sure kids who start curling at younger ages have access to ice on a daily basis and can develop and maybe do the stuff we did. When we started curling, we had access to practice on ice every day."
Shuster says he isn't the biggest fan of building rinks in places where people aren't passionate about curling but rather focus on the places where they are trying to grow the game.
"Places like Los Angeles that [have] been dying to build one, I'm going to do everything I can to help them build one," he said. "San Francisco — same deal."