CURLING: Curling (Men) Press Conference Transcripts
Lisa Ramsperger
(719) 866-4805
February 10, 2010 11:53 PM

Coach Phil Drobnick (Duluth, Minn.)

On the team’s preparation for the Games: “It’s a real exciting time in USA Curling. We’ve gone through some changes, and one big change is that we’ve implemented a summer training program. We started back in May and ran about eight camps in Green Bay. We’ve been working on physical fitness, on-ice training, mental skills and various different things. We also ran a two-week training camp over in Switzerland to get a chance to play against some of our European teams. All of the guys have been working really hard and it was the coaching staff’s goal making sure that the team was one of the best prepared teams coming into Vancouver. We feel pretty good about where the guys are at. We had a good start to the season and the guys have been getting better as the season has been going along. We’ve been going to Norway, Switzerland and Canada and got a chance to play our European counterparts and finished off with a couple of events in Canada.”

 

John Shuster (Chism, Minn.)

On moving to the skip position: “The move from lead to skip came out of the last Olympics. I left team fencing and had some unfinished business in college. I had a chance to represent Team USA in the World University Games, which were in Torino, ironically, and fell in love with skipping again, which I had done a lot in juniors. Going back there and having success and in turn starting my curling relationship as far as being team members with Jeff is very important. We formed a bond and found chemistry, and decided that I didn’t mind throwing the last rock again. It was that confidence that led us into 2008 when Jason got added to our team. And since 2009 Mr. Benton has helped us make that transition from the young men and playing in juniors in the lower ranks and developing into pretty darn good men’s curling team. It came full circle, and I’m honored to lead these guys because they are a bunch of great players. I’m really excited for this next month.”

 

More on moving to the skip position: “Over the three or four years that I ended up playing with fencing, it got to the point where I would be holding the broom in the house because I was also the vice-skip. I remember holding the broom on a few shots and thinking ‘I used to love throwing this shot, but I’m not sure I want to throw this one anymore. That love of skipping and throwing that last rock really came back in 2007.

 

On the pressure of being the skip: “As any skip can tell you, when you get up to throw the last shot of an end—whether it be to make a big shot to score a bunch of points for your team, or to cut the other team off from putting an end together. You just got to step up to the hack and throw the shot we practiced every day really hard. I’m always thrived when it comes down to pressure situations—when you throw a shot that you’ve thrown 100 or 1,000 times in practice. I’m lucky enough to have three teammates who always communicate what’s going on with the ice.”

 

On preparation for the 2006 Games and these Games: “The preparation has been very similar in terms of the intensity and the actual structure of the program. In 2006, you had to make your own decisions as far as training goes, and I think they worked. This time we had a little more structure, guidance and a little more science behind what we were doing. It gave us all a little more confidence to put together a great training season and we prepared with Feb. 16-27 in mind.

 

John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.)

On his Olympic experience so far: “I can’t say anything other than it’s an honor. When I first learned that I was possibly the oldest member on the U.S. team, I got a lot of razzing. It’s a real honor to be here after such a long career. I often turn to John and say ‘have I said thank you enough?’ It’s been a great ride so far and being here is just amazing—walking around, being with the other athletes, being in a place where we’re all realizing a dream that we had. It’s a really special thing.”

 

On the nickname that his teammates have given him: “Great grandpa. Or the short form, which is ‘G.G.’”

 

Jason Smith (Cape Coral, Fla.)

On how he became involved in curling despite living in Florida: “There’s actually no curling in Florida. I moved back to Minnesota for the last two winters. Generally during the curling season I live in Minnesota and practice and play with these guys. “

 

On training and bonding with his teammates: “For training, I was going back and forth from Green Bay to Florida. It was fine, though. In the long run it was okay. John, Jeff and I—we all live together. We’re really close. Jeff and I actually have bunk beds.”

 

John Shuster (Chism, Minn.)

On the top contenders: “We’ve played against all of them, and I don’t think they’ve seen our best. And I don’t think we’ve seen their best. They’re of course going to have that pressure of being favorites. Being underdogs is a new story for us. We have a schedule we feel is very favorable. We like the way it lines up. We can get a few wins early and give us momentum to carry us through the round-robin section and into the medal round. In curling, anything can happen. I know these guys are pretty prepared to come out and have the best competition we’ve ever had.

 

On the team’s honorary captain, Vernon Davis: “After their season ended, he got an opportunity to go down to the Bay Area Curling Club in San Francisco or San Jose and give curling a try. As curlers, we’re very welcoming, and we’re very proud of our sport. We’re very good at introducing it to people and giving them a chance to fall in love with it like we did. We talked to Vernon Davis a few weeks after that via video conference and he was telling us about how curling was really exciting and really intrigued him. He wanted to find out more about high-level curling. We’re looking forward to getting a chance to meet him in person and share some experiences and maybe he has something to offer us too as far as advice going into a big game.

 

John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.)

On what makes John Shuster the right guy to lead the team: “When John first called me, I was a little big shocked. When I contemplated and first thought of playing on the team, I thought John’s a winner. I played against John and knew how competitive he was. You just get a sense, especially when you play against people, of what kind of tenacity they have and how they handle themselves, especially in curling. I admire John, especially being quite a bit younger than me. I really respect people who carry themselves well on the ice. I really saw a winner and somebody who wanted to play the game the right way.”

 

Coach Phil Drobnick (Duluth, Minn.)

On what he knows about the team now that he didn’t know 11 months ago: “When I joined the team about 11 months ago, I knew the guys pretty well, especially on a personal level—being inside the team, how close they are. The guys live together and they really back one another all the time. The really great thing about it is when things get tight or when the pressure’s on, they’re able to step up and handle that well, so we’re really excited about that.”

 

Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.)

On the venue: “It’s a little  bit different this year compared to when we were there last year in March for juniors. The area wasn’t quite completed yet. We had a rough idea. I think the stones are a bit different this time around, so I think we’ll have not much inside information.”

 

Coach Phil Drobnick (Duluth, Minn.)

On the difference between coaching juniors and Shuster’s team: “We really do have a coaching staff. We’re surrounded by people who are experts in different areas—from sports psychologists to physical fitness. The whole system has changed. I really like the environment of working with a whole coaching staff and I think it’s definitely a new direction for us. I’m liking the way things are going.”

 

Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.)

On using Twitter if he’s not playing in a game: “I’m kind of addicted. So long as the team doesn’t get mad at me, I guess I’d love to. I try to whatever I can to keep people updated. I know there are a lot of people on the outside who like to have a sneak peek as to what’s going on behind the scenes. I’m sure I’ll be doing a little bit of that.”

 

Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.)

On what bunk he shares with Jason: “I have the bottom bunk.”

 

Jason Smith (Cape Coral, Fla.)

On being raised by his grandparents: “I obviously loved being raised by my grandparents. My grandfather was always around. He retired when I was five. He was always at my different sporting events, always supporting me. He was always brutally honest, which was good. He wasn’t the type of parent that if I  had a bad game he would tell me I had a good game anyway. I had to hear about it. For the curling aspect, he didn’t know much about it but he certainly helped and supported me. I wouldn’t be the athlete I would be without him coaching throughout the years.”




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