Even Olympians say there are few events better than the MCA Bonspiel to truly enjoy curling.
After a disappointing 10th-place finish at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Minnesota skip John Shuster and third Jeff Isaacson made a point of putting the fun back in the game, something they feel the MCA Bonspiel does in spades.
"You get to go meet different people, sit around and enjoy the curling aspect," said Isaacson, who said the Olympic year was a long and exhuasting one. "It's loose. It's a good team-building bonspiel."
Shuster said the bonspiel has worked wonders before, citing the 2006 event as a launching point for the Pete Fenson rink that took bronze in Turin. The 30-year-old played lead for the seven-time American champion.
"This bonspiel really gave us a chance to get rolling and get back to what curling's all about -- playing curling games with your friends and playing at different clubs," he said.
Shuster always look forward to playing Canadian teams, saying the high level of competition helps keep his rink sharp. However, it was a 6-3 victory over Rui Liu's Chinese rink that improved the Duluth Curling Club team to 6-0 and in the hunt in the Asham event at the 125th running of the bonspiel.
The Shuster rink also includes 21-year-old second Jared Zezel and 22-year-old lead John Landsteiner, who were not on the 2010 Olympic team. With the revamped roster, the quartet is looking ahead to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, as Shuster feels he has "unfinished business" after the struggles in Vancouver. He now feels free to pursue gold once again after entirely refocusing on the road ahead.
"The one thing I knew I had to do, because we had to do it even from the good ending of the 2006 Olympics (after) winning a medal, was to put it in your past," said Shuster. "It took me a little while. Last November, I was watching a tape of a game where we played Switzerland and missed our two last shots to lose the game.
"Watching the game, I had this uncomfortable feeling, and knew this was the day that this needs to become the past for me."
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For Manitobans competing in the bonspiel, there is a little extra to play for, with four spots in the Safeway Championship up for grabs.
After Saturday's 6 p.m. draw, West Kildonan's Eugene Desjarlais, St. Vital's Jose Loureiro and Joel Marcon, Deer Lodge's William Lyburn, Thistle's Don Henry, West St. Paul's Dave Elias, Brandon's Terry McNamee, and Stonewall's Jared Koloaya all sported unblemished records in the Asham event.
-- special to the Free Press