For Fenson, curling is a family affair
With Pete Fenson's pedigree, it was almost a no-brainer that the 40-year-old would turn out to be a world-class curler.
Growing up in Bemidji, Minn., Fenson's mom, Liz, competed at the national level. His dad, Bob, a world-class curler, won the U.S. national championships in 1979. It should come as no surprise that their son would go on to lead the first U.S. Olympic Curling Team to bring home a medal. Having won a bronze in the Torino Olympic Winter Games, Fenson is hoping for more success in Vancouver.
"For us, having experienced the Olympics once, that's the No. 1 thing that keeps us playing the game," Fenson said. "We want to go back and represent our country and compete at that level again...Obviously, [winning a bronze medal] was a big accomplishment for my team and myself."
In a career that has taken him to many parts of the globe, including a chance to curl at Rockefeller Center in New York City ("that was quite the hoot"), those Olympic memories shine brightest.
"It was such an amazing experience," Fenson said. "The Opening Ceremonies themselves were pretty unbelievable, especially for a curler. We're not used to playing in stadiums that are full of people. It gave us all chills."
In Torino, the family theme still reigned supreme. Fenson's dad was the team's coach, and Fenson's wife and sons were able to make the trip over and cheer for him through every game.
Currently, Fenson's team is fighting for a spot on the U.S. team to compete in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. That road to Vancouver included a stop in Boston, where Fenson and his teammates finished well enough to be among the 16 teams still alive. Now it's on to Bismarck, N.D., the final stop before qualifying for the U.S. squad takes place in Denver in late February.
The bronze medalist doesn't seem to let his success go to his head. Most Mondays you can find him curling with his wife, Roxanne, and their two sons in a league in their hometown of Bemidji. Thanks in large part to the Fenson family, Bemidji has become something of a hotbed for curling. (It doesn't hurt that the town of 13,000 is only 100 miles from Canada, the world's capital of curling.)
Bemidji is also where you'll find Dave's Pizza, a restaurant Fenson and his wife have been running for more than 12 years. Owning the traditional pizzeria has allowed Fenson "to keep chasing the dream."
In Torino, Fenson even got a chance to don his pizza-man hat at some of the local pizzerias and put his skills to the test against some of the world's best.
"I got to cook a few pies and try it out Italian style," Fenson said.
Free time doesn't always abound for Fenson during the curling season, so he values every minute he gets to spend with his wife and sons.
"Family time is pretty valuable to us," Fenson said. "When we get time to be together, it sounds like a pretty normal thing for most people but it isn't for us. Time together is our biggest hobby."
With the support of his family-and the backing of Bemidji-his focus couldn't be stronger going into the qualifying rounds.
"...We've made a lot of sacrifices," Fenson said. "We spend a lot of time on tour trying to play above our level. We try to go to the best competitions in the world and play the best teams in the world to learn as much as we can. We gather information on fitness, nutrition and mental toughness, all the things you need in order to be a top-level competitor [and] to give yourself the best chance to win."
Fenson isn't bothered by pressure to match or top his 2006 successes, despite what people say.
"We play the game for personal reasons," Fenson said. "We're not full-time curlers. We're representing our country. We want to do them proud and do the best we can. But the fact that we play the game for ourselves-and that most of the sacrifices we make are personal-the pressure to do well comes from within."
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Tim McCormick is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.