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Shuster and US men's curling eye repeat gold, win last-chance game to make semis

John Shuster and his team, defending their Winter Olympics gold medal, managed to stay afloat despite falling behind early against Denmark.

BEIJING, China — John Shuster and the defending Olympic curling champions won a last-chance match to qualify for the playoffs on Thursday, beating Denmark 7-5 to keep the United States' hopes of a repeat gold medal alive.

The Americans will play Britain in the semifinals Thursday. Reigning silver medalist Sweden will meet Canada, which finished fourth in Pyeongchang.

Four years after winning five straight elimination games to take gold — just the second Olympic curling medal in U.S. history — Shuster’s foursome was again in a desperate position.

This time there was a twist, though: Even with a loss, they could have made the playoffs if Italy beat Norway. (The Americans beat Norway 7-6 in the round robin to claim the tiebreaker.)

With the U.S. playing Denmark on Sheet A and Norway vs. Italy on Sheet D, the matches began at 9:05 a.m. and seesawed for about hour in which the Americans were relatively safe; even though they fell behind early, so did Norway.

Both matches were 2-2 heading into the fourth end, when things turned in the Americans’ favor.

Denmark’s last stone slid slowly past its intended target — a U.S. rock that was well protected by two other American ones in the scoring area. That was a steal of three, giving Shuster a 5-2 lead after four ends. Three sheets away, Italy scored two to take a 4-2 lead.

But soon after Norway took the lead with a steal of two in the seventh, the Americans went ahead of Denmark 7-3 with a steal of their own. (Norway stole two more in the eighth and two more in the ninth to take a 9-4 lead, and Italy conceded.)

The Americans needed to win, and they did.

They gave up two points in the ninth end to make it 7-5, but Shuster would hold the last-rock advantage in the 10th. The Americans methodically eliminated any Danish rocks that could lead to a multipoint steal; when Shuster knocked away the second-to-last red rock, Denmark conceded.

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