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    US men’s curling team finds redemption in semifinal upset of Canada

    John Shuster (rear) throws a rock for the United States squad in the semifinals.
    Natacha Pisarenko
    John Shuster (rear) throws a rock for the United States squad in the semifinals.

    John Shuster and his US team will play for a curling gold medal against Sweden after Thursday’s 5-3 semifinal upset of Canada, a country that has struggled at the PyeongChang Olympics despite dominating the world of curling for years.

    The Americans’ victory Thursday was a remarkable comeback story for a team that had never beaten Canada at the Olympics and hadn’t made the podium since the 2006 Turin Games, when they won a bronze medal.

    Just as remarkable was the loss for Canada, which won the gold in men’s curling at the last three Winter Olympics. The Canadian women’s curling team, meanwhile, didn’t even make the semifinals here despite being the defending world champions.


    Shuster’s victory follows a particularly rocky Olympic path. After winning the bronze in Turin, he was benched at the 2010 Vancouver Games in the middle of the tournament because his performance was so poor. In Sochi, Shuster’s team finished in ninth place.

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    ‘‘It’s a pretty good story. This is just another step,’’ Shuster said.

    ‘‘I just decided that, 50 years from now, maybe I'm long gone, when my kids are showing my grandkids video from the Olympics, I don’t want all my videos to be me failing.’’

    The turning point in the semifinal came in the eighth end. The teams were tied, 2-2, and Canada had the right to throw the final rock of the end. But team captain Kevin Koe threw the stone too light and it came up short of the house. The United States had two rocks in the target, giving them a 2-point steal and putting them ahead, 4-2.

    In the next end, Canada blew its chance to score 2 points with its final rock and settled for 1 to bring the score to 4-3. In the final end, Shuster threw the last rock, which knocked the lone Canadian stone out of the center of the house, adding 1 point to the US’ score and sealing the win.


    An elated Shuster pumped his fist and the Americans whooped with joy.

    ‘‘The US has been waiting for something like this and needing a sort of spark,’’ said team member Matt Hamilton.

    Sweden defeated Switzerland, 9-3, in the other semifinal. The Swedes beat the United States, 10-4, in the round-robin session.

    ‘‘They’re a fantastic curling team,’’ Shuster said. ‘‘We’re going to have some fun and put on a show, and may the best team win.’’

    NBCSN will air the gold medal match between the US and Sweden live at 1:25 a.m. Saturday morning.

    Russia doles out $15m fee


    Within hours of curler Alexander Krushelnitsky being stripped of a bronze medal for a doping violation, the Russian Olympic Committee said it had paid a $15 million fee that was part of the criteria to have its team reinstated at the PyeongChang Games.

    Russia’s team was officially banned from the Games because of widespread doping at the Sochi Olympics four years ago, but 168 Russians were allowed by the IOC to compete as ‘‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’’ under the Olympic flag.

    The IOC is due to decide Saturday whether to formally reinstate the Russian team for the Closing Ceremony the following day.

    With the doping case against Krushelnitsky shaping as a potential impediment, the Russians moved to settle the matter quickly.

    Krushelnitsky waived his right to a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, despite denying that he knowingly took a banned substance, and agreed that his doping samples taken at the PyeongChang Games contained meldonium.

    On Thursday, CAS disqualified Krushelnitsky’s results from the Olympics, withdrew his credential, and referred his doping case to the international curling federation to determine a suspension from competition.

    The Russian Olympic Committee issued a statement saying it had returned the bronze medal which Krushelnitsky and his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova, won in the mixed doubles. It also confirmed an investigation into how the banned substances got into his system has been launched.

    Norwegian pair Magnus Nedregotten and Kristin Skaslien, who placed fourth in the mixed doubles after losing, 8-4, to the Russians, were expected to be elevated to the bronze.

    Speedskating controversy

    Thousands of South Koreans are calling for two speedskaters to be expelled from the Olympics after they left their slower Republic of Korea teammate behind in a race defined by teamwork and walked away as she quietly sobbed at the stadium in one of the most bizarre moments of this year’s Winter Games.

    As of Thursday afternoon, nearly 570,000 signatures had been gathered on an online petition to South Korea’s presidential office calling for skaters Kim Bo-Reum and Park Ji Woo to be expelled from the Olympics.

    During the women’s team pursuit quarterfinals on Monday, Kim and Park skated ahead as teammate Noh Seon-yeong fell behind the pack. Noh finished the race nearly four full seconds after her teammates did. Cameras showed Kim and Park walking away after the race as Noh cried in the infield of the Gangneung Oval. She was comforted only by her Dutch coach, Bob de Jong.

    Some South Koreans believe Kim and Park were trying to humiliate Noh because there was nothing to be gained by crossing first. In team pursuit, the finishing time is set by the third and last skater crossing the line. Skaters are allowed to cooperate, including pushing their slower teammates from behind.

    ‘‘It’s clearly a disgrace to our national image that these individuals of bad character are representing this country at the Olympics,’’ the petition says.

    The petition also calls for an investigation into what it describes as ‘‘various corruption and irregularities’’ at the Korea Skating Union, the national skating body. The union has come under criticism for many years for alleged factionalism and nepotism in selecting athletes to compete for the Olympics.

    There was no immediate comment by the union.

    As the public anger grew, Kim appeared in a news conference with her coach on Tuesday and tearfully offered her ‘‘sincere apology’’ and said she didn’t realize Noh was that far off until it was too late.

    On Wednesday night, Noh skated with Kim and Park again in a two-team race to determine seventh place. As the stadium’s announcer called out their names, the crowd quietly acknowledged Kim and Park, but saved a thunderous cheer for Noh. The Koreans lost to Poland and finished eighth.

    Dutch in hot water

    After the Dutch speedskating team botched its men’s team pursuit race and had to settle for Olympic bronze, things got even worse. On Thursday, there were several apologies to be made.

    First, there was an accident during the ceremonial throwing of a giant mock medal into a crowd at the team’s Holland Heineken House to mark the third-place finish.

    The same evening, pursuit skater Jan Blokhuijsen ruffled sensitivities by addressing the fate of dogs in South Korea with a short remark at his postrace news conference. Koreans have been eating dog for thousands of years, though the practice has waned recently and most in the country don’t do it regularly.

    ‘‘People who know me know I care intensely about the well-being of animals,’’ Blokhuijsen said Thursday in a statement. ‘‘However, I should not have made this remark at the moment or the place.’’

    The Korea Times reported that the skater said, ‘‘Please treat dogs better in this country.’’

    Two female visitors at the Holland Heineken House were injured when a giant mock medal was thrown into a crowd by Blokhuijsen and three teammates on Wednesday night. A joint apology was issued. ‘‘Let it be clear we never had any intention to cause this,” it read in part.

    Vonn pays tribute

    Lindsey Vonn came to South Korea with the goal of taking home an Olympic medal and leaving something even more special behind. She did both. The American ski great said Thursday she recently scattered some of the ashes of her grandfather, who served during the Korean War, on a rock near the mountain where the downhill races were run. She said she sprayed parts of Don Kildow’s ashes ‘‘just a few days ago’’ on a rock that she was told was special when she visited South Korea last year to be named a PyeongChang Olympic ambassador. Kildow died in November . . . The Kiwis crushed it on Thursday. First, 16-year-old snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott ended New Zealand’s 26-year medal drought with a bronze in women’s Big Air. A couple hours later, 16-year-old Nico Porteous tacked on another bronze in the men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe.

    The country’s only previous Winter Games medal was a silver won by Annelise Coberger in women’s slalom at Albertville in 1992.