Posted at: 11/04/2013 9:27 PM
Updated at: 11/06/2013 11:11 PM
By: Laura Kennedy
Nine teams will face off in the Olympic Curling Trials next week for a chance to represent the U.S. at the 2014 winter games.
2010 Olympian John Shuster will skip one of four squads with Northland ties. He says his team is in good shape going into the trials.
"We've actually gotten a lot of team practice in lately, five events in the last eight weekends," Shuster said. "I've seen plenty of rocks coming out of their hands, so I'm feeling pretty good about that."
John Landsteiner of Duluth is Shuster's lead. Joe Polo also lives here and will compete with Pete Fenson's rink. Duluth natives and teammates Tyler George and Chris Plys will also be in the mix in Fargo.
"Fenson, Shuster in particular, we have played against these guys who knows how many times over the years, so we know what to expect from them, they know what to expect from us and nobody is fooling anybody, it is going to be a matter of execution and that is it," says Tyler George.
"We just have to stick to our own game and stay positive and we have to just realize that it is just one game at a time and I know that sounds super cliche, but it is one game at time," says Plys.
The winning U.S. men's team still has one more step before Sochi. They have to curl against seven other national teams at an Olympic qualifier, vying for two spots in the games.
"I think it might take a little pressure off just being able to focus on winning that and then winning the next step after," Shuster said.
The U.S. ladies are already qualified for the Olympics, so the winner of the trials is going to Russia.
"We put in a ton of time. When you work so hard for something, it's hard to believe you wouldn't get it," said Aileen Sormunen of Duluth. "It would be heartbreaking not to."
Sormunen is the vice skip for Courtney George's rink. She says her team's instincts could be their biggest asset.
"I think we have a really good feel," Sormunen said. "A lot of teams are very mechanically sound. We really do well at feeling the ice and making sure that the weights are perfect and have a good sense of what the ice is doing."
With an Olympic opportunity within reach, these curlers will rely on experience, trust their teammates, and hope the rocks spin their way.