Duluth welcomes home golden curlers

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Duluth curling team member Tyler George is startled at the crowd.
Duluth curling team member Tyler George can't believe his eyes at the crowd that turned out to welcome the team home Monday.
Bob King | Duluth News Tribune

The crowd erupted with a roar. Team members shared tearful hugs with family and friends.

U.S. skip John Shuster's son led a rousing chant of "USA! USA" from his father's arms.

Four members of the U.S. Olympic men's curling team live in the Duluth-Superior region and call the Duluth Curling Club home, and they were given a hero's welcome upon their arrival.

"These are the people that were around for all this work that this team put in," said Shuster.

Nancy Litman of Duluth, a friend of John Shuster, takes a selfie.
Nancy Litman of Duluth, a friend of John Shuster, uses her phone to take a selfie during the homecoming.
Bob King | Duluth News Tribune

Then he looked around at the adoring crowd, and said how ecstatic he was to see a lot of faces he didn't recognize.

"Our sport has been growing in our country and in our region. You just hope that Olympic medals can inspire people," Shuster said.

Team Shuster certainly inspired people around the country with its improbable triumph.

Sitting with a 2-4 record and one loss away from elimination, the U.S. team reeled off five consecutive victories over traditional global curling powers, culminating with a gold-medal defeat of Sweden Saturday.

John Shuster of the Duluth curling team gets a big hug from Kim Hinz.
John Shuster gets a big hug from Kim Hinz of Duluth at the Duluth International Airport Monday evening.
Bob King | Duluth News Tribune

"It's just something that's so far out there in your dreams, you can't even imagine that it's true when it happens," said vice skip Tyler George.

"I know I slept with this [medal] 6 inches from my head the first night, because I wanted to wake up right away to make sure it was still there."

Minnesota closed out the Olympics with style, added Shuster.

"It started with that unbelievable kick by Jessie Diggins, and I can't tell you how much that fueled us," Shuster said. "Then the ladies' hockey finally coming out triumphant. When we got to the ice that night, you could feel it in the air."

Carol Holm and her grandson Tyler Stage awaited the U.S. Curling Team
Carol Holm and her grandson Tyler Stage of Duluth awaited the gold medal winning U.S. curling team at the Duluth airport.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

Carol Holm of Duluth came decked out in a red, white and blue Team USA sweater, with her 10-year old grandson Tyler in tow, who wanted to get an up-close look at a gold medal.

"It's a fun sport, a lot of fun, a very social sport, so I hope it catches on," said Holm.

Her grandson hasn't played it yet, but wants to give it a shot now that curlers from his hometown can call themselves the best in the world.

Dustin Tomasetti, who grew up with Shuster on the Iron Range, predicts Team USA's victory will grow the sport more than ever before.

"All people have ever said about the sport of curling, is, wait for the U.S. to win a gold medal, and then let's see what happens. Now it's kind of a put up or shut up time," he said.

The communities of Duluth and Superior are planning a welcome celebration at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, where the athletes plan to walk into the ballroom under a canopy of curling brooms.

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