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With pressure off, US men's curling team relishing title defense

With pressure off, US men's curling team relishing title defense
Posted at 5:15 AM, Feb 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-05 06:27:02-05

The United States are among the men's curling medal favorites at the 2022 Winter Olympics, but skip John Shuster says their stunning triumph in Pyeongchang four years ago means they are feeling less pressure in the quest to defend their Olympic title.

Shuster won bronze in Turin in 2006 as lead on Pete Fenson's rink before taking his "Team Rejects" to glory in Pyeongchang when they upset heavyweights Sweden and became the first U.S. team to win Olympic curling gold.

"It was the sporting pinnacle of my career," Shuster said in a news conference on Saturday. "We'll always be Olympic champions ... That will be something we'll always get to carry with us.

"I've always cared so much about going to the Olympics and having a great performance, and getting to be on top of that podium has kind of taken that pressure off. We're just going to go out there and enjoy the opportunity to try to defend.

"In the last four years, we've worked extremely hard and I think we've only made steps further forward to give ourselves a great chance to compete and get on that podium again."

Chris Plys, currently competing in the mixed doubles with Vicky Persinger, will play third for Shuster's rink on Wednesday when they take on the Russian team, while Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner resume their roles from 2018 as second and lead.

"You can't take that medal away from me now," joked Hamilton, who made his Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.

"You can't write it any better than that," he added. "It was a pretty incredible experience ... I'm stoked to be back and hoping to do it again."