Curlers’ path to 2014 Olympics goes through Fargo

Skip Pete Fenson of Bemidji, Minn., watches team members Joe Polo, left, of Bemidji, Minn., and Ryan Brunt of Portage, Wis., sweep during U.S. Olympic Team Trial action at Scheels Arena in Fargo, N.D. Fenson’s team, including three of the current athletes, is the only U.S. Team to win an Olympic curling medal.(Ann Arbor Miller/ For MPR News)

Nine teams of curlers are in Fargo this week competing for spots on the 2014 Winter Olympic team.

The winner of the four-team women’s competition will represent the United States at the Sochi Olympics in February. The men’s team that wins the U.S. trials will advance to another qualifying round next month in Germany. Because of a world curling point system, the men’s team will need to place in the top two at a seven-team playoff next month to make it to the Olympics.

Photos: Olympic hopefuls curl in Fargo

Minnesota is heavily represented in the competition. Three of the women’s teams and four men’s teams are Minnesota based.

For many of the teams this high level competition is old hat. Bemidji resident Pete Fenson leads a team that won a bronze medal at the 2006 winter Olympics, the first and only U.S. Olympic curling medal.

“Having been to the Olympics obviously changes it a little bit just because we know what’s ahead of us. But it’s always the same mentality when we come in to one of these. We’re concentrating on playing as well as we can play and winning as many games as we can win,” said Fenson.

Team Fenson is doing well at the Olympic Trials in Fargo.  The competition will wrap up this weekend at the 5,000-seat Scheels Arena.

Preparing for a shot at a spot on the Olympic team requires curlers to get an early start on the season.

“Just trying to get ready faster than normal because usually our nationals are in February and our playoffs start in January,” Fenson said. “So we’re committed to try and be a couple of months ahead of where we usually are.”

The extra practice and preparation will continue  if Team Fenson wins a trip to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.