Pyeongchang Olympics Curling Men

McFarland's Matt Hamilton, middle, stands with fellow Olympic gold medalists, from left, Joe Polo, John Landsteiner, Tyler George and skip John Shuster after the U.S. defeated Sweden on Saturday.

McFarland's Matt Hamilton has gone from reject to Olympic champion.

Hamilton, not originally picked for the program that was designed to produce the American Olympic team, won gold with the United States on Saturday after a 10-7 victory over Sweden in Gangneung, South Korea.

Completing a comeback story that has captured national attention, the team skipped by Superior's John Shuster scored five points in the eighth end to break a 5-5 tie, with Shuster's final throw taking out two Swedish stones.

Sweden scored two in the ninth end but the U.S. cleared out stones in the 10th to seal the victory.

It was already going to be the U.S.' best Olympic performance, bettering a bronze in 2006, but the Americans went out on top.

And they did so while engaging new curling fans, with Mr. T giving a pregame pep talk over the phone and scores of celebrities and followers tweeting support and congratulations.

Hamilton, who opened the Olympics failing to win a medal with his sister Becca in mixed doubles and has been supported by a group of friends and family from the Madison area, looked toward the fans after winning gold.

"It just felt really great to be able to share that moment with our families and friends and really be able to shine," Hamilton said in a TV interview. "The fact that they were here probably made me more comfortable. I just felt in my element."

After not being picked for USA Curling's High Performance Program four years ago, Hamilton fielded a call from Shuster, who was in the same situation.

Together with Tyler George and John Landsteiner, they formed a group that they cheekily called the "reject team." It won the U.S. championship in 2015, setting in motion the road to an improbable Olympic gold.

To make things more dramatic, they were on the verge of elimination from playoff contention after starting the round-robin part of the tournament 2-4 with an embattled skip who had endured his share of Olympic failures.

After being part of Pete Fenson's team that gained U.S. curling's previous best Olympic finish, a bronze in 2006, Shuster was the skip of American teams in 2010 and 2014 that both finished 2-7.

On Saturday, they won their fifth straight game in the tournament, a string that included two victories over curling power Canada.

"I look back at 2006 and standing on the podium and getting an Olympic medal and it being one of the most incredible moments of my life and hearing someone else's national anthem, because someone else won the gold," Shuster said. "That's when I knew that for me, I wanted to go there and hear my national anthem and stand on the top of a podium at an Olympics. From the day that the 2014 Olympics came to an end, every single day was with this journey in mind."

Against Sweden, which defeated the U.S. 10-4 in the round-robin part of the tournament, the Americans fell behind 2-0 after two ends but responded with two in the third and a steal of one in the fourth.

Sweden jumped back ahead 4-3 with two in the fifth but the U.S. came out of the break with a pair of their own.

After Sweden tied the game 5-5 in the seventh, Shuster played a double takeout on his last shot in the eighth to leave the U.S. with the only five stones in the house.

Sweden outshot the U.S. 85 percent to 80 percent. Hamilton shot 74 percent and Shuster was at 76 percent.

Hamilton, 29, has used his personality, social media presence and, yes, his mustache, to become a star over the three weeks of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

"I, believe it or not, don't hate attention," he joked with reporters after Saturday's victory. "It's been a lot of fun to be able to get on a stage like this and be an ambassador for the sport as someone who maybe makes it seem a little less stiff and more for younger people and cool."

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Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.