U.S. men win curling gold — how it happened

If you’re a little tired of curling coverage that tries way too hard to explain the sport without telling you anything that’s actually happening on the ice, this post is for you.

This is what happened. If you don’t know the terminology, figure it out. It’s not that hard. Also, my local curling club has a good glossary.

The teams in order of when they deliver their rocks:

Sweden: Christoffer Sundgren, Rasmus Wranaa, Oskar Eriksson, Niklas Edin.

USA: John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, Tyler George, John Shuster.

I’m also going to refer to the shot-by-shot diagrams on the results page, which includes grades for each shot (100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 0%). Not that they’re accurate. When in doubt, trust NBC analyst Kevin Martin, a Canadian who took silver in 2002 and gold on home ice in 2010.

1st end: Sweden has the hammer. The USA goes straight into the house with its first rocks, setting up a routine string of takeouts. The only tricky shot in such an end is the last one, where Edin needs to hit Shuster’s last rock and roll his own rock out of the house, which means he has to hit it to one side rather than on the nose. Edin does just that, meaning there’s no score and Sweden retains the hammer. Fourteen of the 16 shots are scored at 100%, but it’s all pretty routine. 0-0.

2nd end: USA opts to set up a center guard this time. Sweden sets up another guard. Landsteiner draws around his own guard into the house, and Sundgren counters with a precise shot to bump the USA’s rock to the back of the house.

Hamilton, showing he’s not just a man with a sense of humor and great mustache, follows with a terrific shot to take the Swedish rock out of the house. Then Wranaa tops that with a double takeout, clearing out the U.S. rocks.

So we have a more complicated series of takeouts because everyone has to deal with the two guards in front.

And we finally get an outright miss. After Edin draws his penultimate shot to the top of the four-foot, Shuster tries an ambitious shot that would knock his own guard into the house and take out Edin’s. He hits the guard, but it’s just a little bit off the nose, and his rock sails by Edin’s rock, leaving the top-ranked player in the world an easy draw for two. 2-0 Sweden.

One thing here showing how Shuster has changed. The stereotype of Shuster in the past is the scrunched-up face of anguish. As The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman put it:

Each time, the camera finds Shuster, whose missed stone has turned him stone-faced. His look is not “Crap, I’ve messed up.” It’s “Crap, I’ve messed up again.” He’s probably lamenting the failure, and probably remembering the aftermath of every one of his past failures, and dreading the fact he has to live through it again. Then, the tweets begin to pop up.

This time, Shuster has a wry smile, and he and Hamilton dissect what went wrong. It’s a cool, calm reaction of a man at the height of his game.

3rd end: Sundgren puts Sweden’s first rock in the top of the house. Landsteiner sets up a guard off to the side. Sweden guards its own, and Landsteiner comes around it to bump Sweden’s rock back. Wranaa swiftly removes the U.S. rock in the house to leave Sweden lying two with a guard in place, but Hamilton’s double takeout reduces that to one. Wranaa freezes a Swedish rock to his own, both on one side of the button.

The next shot shows how scoring can be inexact. Was Hamilton trying to draw around his own guard to hit the Swedish rocks? If so, he failed, and it’s 0% — as it was indeed scored. But he managed to bump his own guard out of the way, which will make it easier for George and Shuster to bring the heavy lumber. Also, his shooter has neatly rolled underneath that forgotten corner guard that Landsteiner put in place earlier.

A cool-looking hit-and-roll from Eriksson gives Sweden three clustered rocks near the center of the house. Looks good, right?

3-9

Tyler George changes that. He hits the top rock, which bangs one of the Swedish rocks out of there, and his shooter rolls just ever so slightly so it’s neatly positioned between the two Swedish rocks. Good luck getting that rock out of there, Sweden.

3-10

Again, the scoring is a little odd with the next shot. Eriksson bumps into the cluster of rocks and gets 100%, but the NBC commentators think it’s a slight miss because it leaves George a good double takeout. George responds by getting both red rocks out of there, leaving just one yellow. He gets 100% and applause from Ivanka Trump in the crowd, but he’s grimacing (as he too often does), perhaps because he thinks Edin will make a double takeout of his own. He does.

That leaves two red rocks on one side of the house, lined up for a possible double. Shuster can only get one (50%). Edin takes out the rock Shuster just threw and rolls as far as he can across the house. We’re not sure who’s second rock now, which complicates things.

3-15

Shuster can easily take out Sweden’s shot rock and score one, but maybe not two. Does he go for the double takeout to make sure he gets two?

Yes. And he hits it. It’s the best shot of the game so far, and we’re tied. 2-2

4th end: The inverse of the last end at the start. Landsteiner draws to the button. Sundgren sets up a corner guard (remember from the last end — the USA’s corner guard helped them keep a second rock in the house). Landsteiner guards his own, and Sundgren freezes to the rock on the button.

Hamilton’s draw is slightly off (75%). Wranaa also gets 75%, Hamilton gets 50% on his next one, and we have five jumbled rocks in the house. Wranaa makes it six and bumps the yellow U.S. rock off the button — scored at 100%, but the NBC crew thinks it’s heavy, and they’re right.

Shuster and George have a long conversation about the next shot to see how many of these rocks they can get out. And it’s another strange score — 100%, but no one on the U.S. team sounds pleased. Eriksson tries a difficult double takeout and gets one (though he’s also scored at 100% for some reason).

NBC says George wants to bump a Swedish red rock out of the four-foot and roll slightly onto the center line. George bumps a Swedish red rock out of the four-foot and rolls slightly onto the center line. THAT is 100%, and Sweden’s path to score two is more complicated. The chance of scoring three or more is probably out.

But when Eriksson hits and rolls off his own, everything is coming up Sweden. Shuster says no, threading the needle to bump in for shot rock ahead of the Swedes.

4-13

And Edin finally misses. He tries to get past that yellow at the top of the four-foot (pinkish red circle) but just nicks it, sliding off to the side. Shuster has a half-miss (appropriately scored 50%), hitting to the right of that jumble and knocking a red rock off the four-foot, but he leaves a potential double takeout from which Edin can score two. But he doesn’t. He’s a little off to the right. The various caroms leave that best-placed yellow rock on the edge of the four-foot, and we need a measurement to see who scores one. It’s the USA, and it’s a steal of one. 3-2 USA

5th end: The first four shots are virtually identical to those of the fourth end. Wranaa accidentally gives Sweden a rock to the side of the house, bumping into a guard and rolling off to the side. Hamilton jumbles things up a bit more, and Wranaa has a difficult shot to hit and roll into the center.

Tyler George go bang. All the red rocks are out of the eight-foot. The USA lies four. Eriksson draws into the eight-foot, but it’s wide-open.

Another long chat ensues. Lots of U.S. rocks in the house, but that also means a lot of rocks Edin can hit.

George on one option: “We’ll only be sitting three.”

Shutster: “That’s fine. I like that — only be sitting three.”

George’s shot is fine. Eriksson’s is not. He should be able to get a couple of yellow rocks out of there, but he only gets one.

5-12

Shuster guards the middle of the house. Edin manages to draw past it but just a bit heavy, going to the back of the button. (Curling 101: Front is better than back. The idea isn’t just to get there but to stay there.)

But Shuster misses badly. His rock sails through the house. Edin draws for two, and we’re roughly even at the halfway point — Sweden up one, USA with the hammer. 4-3 Sweden

6th end: A little less traffic this time. Landsteiner removes one of Sundgren’s rocks. Wranaa tries to take out both Hamilton’s guard and the lone U.S. rock in the house, but he only gets one. Hamilton gets a harsh 0% on his next rock, which leaves a Swedish rock clinging to the house but leaves the USA lying two.

Eriksson plays a perfect hit-and-roll, given Sweden shot rock under a long center guard. George, who’s on fire, makes that one go away. Eriksson, also playing very well, takes out both U.S. rocks in the house and rolls his own shooter out, leaving just the one Swedish rock in the house. George draws around the Swedish guard and sets up shot stone at the top of the house.

Edin tries one of the curling shots that boggles my mind — the long, long runback, banging a guard into the house and trying to use that to take out the rock in the house. Shuster missed this shot earlier in the game. Edin misses, too.

Shuster draws to the side of the house to give the USA two stones and leave Edin a difficult double takeout. Edin opts against that shot and tries a hit-and-roll that would give him shot stone. It rolls too far, and Shuster draws for two. 5-4 USA 

7th end: Landsteiner plays a nice draw to the top four-foot behind his own center guard. Sundgren comes around and bumps it, giving Sweden shot rock early.

Hamilton isn’t happy with his first delivery. He hits the red rock, but it jams into the yellow rock behind the button. Sweden has one at the back of the four-foot, outcounting a U.S. rock off to the side.

But Wranaa’s attempt to freeze to that U.S. rock is off-target, and Hamilton redeems his end with a perfect double takeout. That’s two U.S. rocks in the house and none for Sweden, thanks very much. The Mustache Man is pumped. And Wranaa counters with a draw that comes up very light, not even reaching the house.

George pounces. He puts a draw right on the button, and with a yellow rock immediately behind it, that’ll be difficult to dislodge. Eriksson clears some traffic. George tries to guard the center, but he leaves enough room for Eriksson to put his own red rock on the button.

7-12

Shuster plays a guard in the eight-foot. He’s content to give up one here and take hammer in the eighth in a tie game. Edin tries to pick off Shuster’s rock and misses everything. (Well, he moved the red rock about an inch when his shot glanced by.) Shuster tosses up another guard to further complicate Edin’s chances of getting two, and Edin has to hit a complex chain reaction up the middle just to get one. 5-5

8th end: And now, the deluge …

Landsteiner tries the most difficult shot a lead ever plays, the “wick” shot to bump a guard out of the way without knocking it all the way out, which isn’t allowed while the leads are playing. (The stone would be replaced.) He misses. But he plays a nice draw with his second shot. In the house: 2 U.S. rocks, 0 for Sweden.

Wranaa draws into the four-foot for shot rock. Hamilton, whose numbers in this game aren’t great, removes a guard. Wranaa replaces it, and Hamilton bumps it out of the way again. The Swedish guard only moves partway out of the way, but Hamilton’s shooter rolls (spins, in fact) to the edge of the house, which will be important later.

Eriksson puts up yet another guard. George tries to pick the red rock out of the house but isn’t really successful (a legit 50%). Eriksson draws to the four-foot but leaves it open for George, who knocks it away.

Edin’s first rock is a draw almost to the same spot as Eriksson’s. But it’s not quite buried behind all the guards.

So we have one of those complicated ends in which a lot of rocks are in play. It could be a big end for the USA or a steal for Sweden, the latter outcome possible if Edin can get a rock in there that Shuster can’t get out.

8-14

Edin calls timeout. Kevin Martin thinks Edin can hold this end to no more than two, which would certainly leave Sweden in contention.

8-15

That 75% is so deceiving. Edin left Shuster a double takeout.

After all that John Shuster has been through — all the disappointment, all the ridicule — he has this shot to virtually clinch a gold medal.

Need you even ask?

10-5 USA

9th end: This is nearly academic now. Edin has to swing for the fences and get a ton of points here just to make the 10th end worth playing.

Landsteiner tosses a shot through the house. No need to leave any traffic. Hamilton takes out a guard. Wranaa replaces it. Hamilton clears it again. Wranaa draws deep into the house, partially buried behind the lone remaining guard, but George takes it out.

Then Eriksson errs. His draw goes all the way through the house. George has a bit of a miss, too, knocking out the lone guard but leaving his own rock in play. Eriksson draws behind that.

Shuster takes out the guard. He’s willing to give up two here. Edin barely gets a draw to the top of the house. Shuster removes it, leaving Edin the whole house to draw for two. 10-7 USA 

10th end: Sweden needs to steal three. Good luck with that.

A mistake from Landsteiner as he tries to hit the “wick” — he knocks the Swedish guard all the way out, so it’s replaced. Sundgren puts up another guard. Landsteiner flings his rock through the house. Again, just trying to avoid a lot of traffic here. Completely different situation than trying to score two.

Wranaa draws behind the two guards. Wait, what two guards? Hamilton bangs them away and leaves nothing in front of the house. Big fist pump time. Sweden’s got very little to play with here.

Wranaa guards again. Only one? Hamilton gets rid of that one, finishing his lonnnnnng Olympics (about 40 hours on the ice between mixed doubles and men’s) on a high.

Eriksson guards. George removes it. Rinse, repeat.

 

Edin does a spin move on his last shot, then shakes hands. It’s over.

 

 

 

 

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