BEIJING—John Shuster didn't need any time to think about it. Only a few minutes after his team lost the Olympic bronze medal match to Canada, the Chisholm native was asked if he planned to pursue a sixth Olympic berth in 2026.

The answer was an emphatic, energetic yes.

Shuster, 39, wasn't able to bring home a medal from his fifth Winter Games, falling 8-5 to Brad Gushue's rink Friday in his final match of the men's curling tournament in Beijing. Though the ending didn't come close to the one he engineered four years ago, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist took a wider perspective.

He and his teammates enjoyed themselves. They reached the medal round, perhaps in more a dramatic fashion than they hoped, and finished fourth at the Beijing Games. Shuster even carried the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony, an honor he called the biggest of his career.

Next week, he will return to Superior, Wis., and the two roles that mean the most to him: husband and dad. As enthusiastic as Shuster is about getting to another Olympics, he's ready to take a little time to reflect on what this one meant.

"It's disappointing to get fourth,'' Shuster said. "But I told myself before we came here if we prepared well, played hard, played great, had a great attitude, enjoyed being here with our teammates, whatever happens was going to be just fine. I think we very, very much accomplished all those goals. That probably makes it a little more satisfying than I would have expected with this finish.''

The Beijing Games concluded Team Shuster's four-year run as reigning Olympic champion. The gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games gave curling an unprecedented boost in the United States, and Shuster's foursome used the spotlight to promote the game in new and unlikely markets.

As it did in 2018, Team Shuster took a high-stress path to the medal round in Beijing. It went 5-4 in round-robin play and needed a victory in its final game against Denmark — as well as some losses by rivals — to move on. Its good fortune ran out in its final two games.

The team lost to Great Britain in Thursday's semifinals, then came back to the National Aquatic Centre about 14 hours later to play for bronze. Canada scored two in the first end and held a 4-3 lead at halftime, but a nice shot by Shuster and a mistake by Gushue handed the Americans two points and a 5-4 advantage.

The error-prone Canadians left plenty of openings for the United States to expand its lead. But Team Shuster had some misfires, too. Canada scored two in the eighth end to move ahead 6-5, and a Shuster miss allowed the Canadians to steal two more in the ninth.

Gushue cleared all the U.S. stones from the house with his first shot of the 10th end, eliminating the Americans' last chance to tie or win.

"They capitalized on our misses,'' said Matt Hamilton, who plays the second position for Team Shuster. "And we didn't quite capitalize on the opportunities we had. Hats off to Team Gushue. They were the better team today.''

Shuster said the quality of competition has increased in each of his five Olympic appearances. As recently as 2014, Canada was practically a lock to reach the gold medal game at every Olympics. This year, Canada's men's and women's teams each finished 5-4 in the round robin, with the men taking bronze and the women failing to advance to the medal round.

The road to the Beijing Games was complicated by the pandemic, with more hardships and sacrifices than usual. Shuster isolated himself from his wife, Sara, and two young sons before the Olympic trials, living in a garage apartment at his parents' home to try and avoid infection. Athletes battled loneliness, anxiety, event cancellations and the temporary closures of curling clubs and gyms.

Chris Plys of Duluth, who plays third for Team Shuster, said the foursome only became closer. Those bonds helped get them to the Olympics, and Plys found comfort in them after Friday's loss.

"There's disappointment now,'' Plys said. "But I'm proud of the way the guys played for each other, and I'm proud of the way we handled ourselves out there.''

Next up for Shuster is some downtime with his family. He owes Sara a backlog of date nights. Sons Luke, 8, and Logan, 6, want to go fishing and play video games, and to have their dad cheering them on at swim meets.

Four years from now, he hopes to be back at another Olympics with his Team Shuster family.

"I would love to keep playing with these guys,'' Shuster said. "No matter what happens, I am so happy and proud.''