February 2007 College Athletes of the Month: Team USA
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Five Minnesota students are now World Champions.
“It was a surreal experience I hope to live to tell my grandchildren about,” says Shane McKinlay, one of five members on Team USA Curling, and the U.S. delegation’s honorary flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.
Team USA (more locally known as Team Shuster, after its skip) is comprised of John Shuster, Jeff Isaacson, Chris Plys, Shane McKinlay and Kevin Johnson. They’re students – or in Isaacson’s case, a recent graduate – at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Bemidji State University, Lake Superior College, Hibbing Community College and the University of Minnesota-Duluth, respectively.
School was far from their minds last month, though, as the five curlers, plus Coach Ed Lukowich, Team Leader Kellie Krake and a few family members, traveled to Pinerolo, Italy for the Winter World University Games January 17-27.
Team USA got off to a rough start, losing the opening match to Switzerland, but they won the next seven in a row. Then, after a close loss to Great Britain (6-4), Team USA completed the round-robin portion tied with Canada and Great Britain for first place. Each team had 7-2 records.
A shoot-out decided semifinals rankings and Minnesota landed second, facing — and eventually beating — powerhouse Canada (7-3), earning a spot to play in the final round for gold. That gave Team USA the chance for a re-match against earlier rivals Great Britain. They beat Britain handedly (9-4) to become Curling World Champions.
“We thought we should have beat them the first time so it’s nice to come back and show them who really was the better team,” Plys said after the win.