BEIJING — John Shuster entered his fifth Olympic Games as the American flag bearer, leading the defending men’s curling champions and the rest of Team USA to the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Games.
He finished it empty-handed, losing 8-5 in the bronze medal game against Brad Gushue and Canada.
“I’m not retiring, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be back here,” said Shuster, who would be 43 for the 2026 Games in Milan and Cortina. “No matter what happens, I’m so happy and proud and I love playing with these guys, and I hope they want to keep doing that.”
Gushue returned to the podium 16 years after winning gold in Turin, beating an American team that included Shuster in the semi-finals. Four years ago, Canada was shut out in both men’s and women’s events for the first time since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 2002.
All three Canadian curling teams in Beijing finished the round robin 5-4, but the women’s and mixed doubles teams missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
“I’m sure people are going to talk about why we didn’t win gold. And rightly so,” said Gushue, who this time teamed up with Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker and his backup. Mark Kennedy.
“We’ve been a very good team for a long time,” Gushue said. “But it’s not easy, it’s hard.”
Gushue shared the podium in Turin with Shuster, who won bronze. Shuster has been back to every Winter Games since, winning it all in Pyeongchang four years ago.
“He’s a monster, man. Like, five Olympics and we’re hoping to get six. This guy is an absolute animal,” American second Matt Hamilton said. “This guy is an awesome guy and a great teammate, and I’m just lucky to be on his team.”
Gushue was unable to pass the ultra-competitive Canadian Olympic Trials again until this year.
“The fact that I’ve been out for 16 years, all that experience means a lot,” he said. “Even though we lost today, we made the most of the experience. At 41, those are things you remember more than at 25, when it comes to winning. The prospect has drastically changed.”
The Canadians took advantage of a missed shot by Shuster in the second-to-last inning that turned a one-run advantage into an insurmountable 8-5 lead.
Canada’s penultimate shot in the 10th end cleared all of the American rocks out of the target zone, giving the USA no chance to tie the game. Shuster immediately conceded.
“You could argue that fourth place is the worst place to finish in the tournament. And I still love my team and love curling,” Hamilton said.
“It would have been great to win a medal. But at the end of the day, those guys are still my boys,” he said. “When I come back to the States, I will always go to their house for a barbecue and a beer, and we will prepare for the next Quad and see what we have.”
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