La Velle E. Neal III
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BEIJING — The end of the USA men's curling team's run at the 2022 Olympics means no more viewing Matt Hamilton's marvelous mane of brown hair.

It hangs below his shoulders and runs everywhere. Calling it a mop of hair would be insulting. It just flows, like a young Shaun White, just on an older head. Hamilton will roll it up at times, creating the greatest man bun ever.

John Shuster, the team's skip from Chisholm, took off his cap to reveal a bald spot when asked if he ever has or could grow his hair out like Hamilton.

"You want to see this?" he asked while eyeing a reporter with less than an inch of hair. "I'm closer to you than I am to him."

The hairstyle has made Hamilton one of the most recognizable curlers in the Olympics and on the international circuit. Hamilton, 33 and from Madison, Wis., has been on the national curling radar since 2007. In 2008, he joined current teammate Chris Plys of Duluth on a junior team. He won gold with Team Shuster in his Olympic debut four years ago.

He would be noticeable with a crew cut.

Hamilton will occasionally sing between shots, doff his cap when the spectators applaud his work and crack jokes in the middle of play. He rocks a pair of Nikes that look like a child was handed crayons and directed toward a pair of Air Jordans. Actually, they are limited edition shoes designed for champion skateboarder Paul Rodriguez that have been converted to curling shoes for Hamilton. His kicks mesh with his persona.

Team Shuster seems to be at its best when playing loose. In its eyes, the grind isn't much of a grind when it's shared with kindred spirits. Winning is a bonus.

Winning gold, like Hamilton helped his team do in 2018, tops everything.

"You know," Shuster said, "our relationships 100 percent makes us special as a team out on the ice, too."

Meanwhile, Hamilton's hair continues its journey. It's really a journey because Hamilton has a destination in mind — a very worthwhile one.

In March, nearly four years after he last had his hair cut, Hamilton is going to cut his hair for charity. He's been working with, a non-profit group that raises money for brain cancer research. The plan is for him to cut off his hair and donate it to a children's wig foundation while raising money for StacheStrong.

"Every dollar that goes to them goes into the charity," Hamilton said. "So I'm just super stoked to be a part of it. And with the mustache myself, I felt like I was a good representative for him."

Yes, there's a mustache part, too. Before the hair was grown out, Hamilton was known for his thick, bushy mustache. It made him stand out on a team on which the other members have facial hair, but with a mustache game that is lacking.

Hamilton has followed COVID protocols the last couple of years and at the Olympics, wearing a mask when required. He met with reporters following a round-robin match last week wearing a mask with a fake mustache attached to the front.

"I didn't want the reporters to think I wasn't wrapping the mustache," he said.

On Friday , before Team USA played Canada in the bronze medal game, the two teams made the customary procession into the arena to be introduced. Bagpipe players have been hired to play during the entry before every session. Each time Team USA entered the National Aquatics Center, Hamilton clapped along with the bagpipes.

Few noticed this earlier during the competition because eight teams entered at once. On Friday, there were only two teams. The spectators saw Hamilton clapping and started clapping along with him, lifting the atmosphere even more.

In a sport in which teams mingle off the ice, Hamilton has become so well liked that two members of Sweden's curling team attended his wedding in 2017.

His hair was a little shorter then — and is about to become shorter again.

"I just like having a lot of fun out there," Hamilton said, "the hair, hopefully, I bring some attention to the charity work I'm trying to do and the support that's been given me means so much that I'm trying to give back."