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Olympics: After crashing in 2010, U.S. curling hopes to rise again in ‘14
Olympics » Americans targeting a medal — and redemption — in Sochi
First Published Feb 09 2014 12:28 pm • Last Updated Feb 09 2014 11:27 pm

Sochi, Russia • After finishing a disappointing 10th at the 2010 Olympics, Jeff Isaacson was finished with curling, his joy for the sport sapped and commitment exhausted.

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He retreated to his career as a junior high school science teacher at Gilbert Junior High School in Virginia, Minn., and avoided throwing rocks for a year. Isaacson purged the bad vibes of Vancouver but not his passion that allowed him to travel the world and compete against the best.

"I still love curling so that’s what brought me back," he said Sunday. "I missed that so I was happy to get back into it and I was happy to make it with this team back to the Olympics."

Four years later a rededicated Isaacson returns to the Olympics with three fellow Minnesotans on the U.S. men’s curling team, which is targeting a medal and redemption in Sochi.

Certainly for the program but also returning skip John Shuster of Duluth, who shouldered the blame for a 2-7 record in Vancouver that ruined the United States’ podium chances and momentum from its 2006 breakout bronze medal.

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"It wasn’t a good week for anyone but in particular he got a lot of heat for it in Vancouver," said Isaacson, who returns as Shuster’s vice skip. "It’s great to have him come back and show that he can do it. Do well, do good things for U.S. curling and be on the medal podium."

Three succinct goals that indicate what is at stake for the men’s team, which opens round-robin competition Monday against Norway. Qualifying for the Olympics let out a huge sigh of relief at U.S. Curling Association headquarters in Stevens Point, Wis.

The Winter Games are curling’s biggest marketing initiative. It has become appointment television for hardcore fans and curiosity seekers lured by the intricacy of the competition and intimacy of the coverage. Each player wears a microphone, bringing viewers into strategy sessions and amplifying skips’ directives to their sweepers.

"Combined with some good commentary (it) helps anyone understand it no matter how much they’ve seen," said U.S. alternate Craig Brown. "It seems so open. It seems like an everyman’s sport more so than the guys flying 30 feet through the air on the halfpipe.

"It’s really a great game. Once people had a chance to see it during the Olympics, that’s why it took off. I’m not really surprised about it."

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