Fensons share family passion at USA Curling Nationals
FARGO—Curling runs deep in the Fenson family. Never has that been more evident than this week.
Pete Fenson, 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and one of the most decorated Americans the sport has seen, is competing alongside his oldest son, Alex Fenson, at the 2018 USA Curling National Championships in Fargo. Meanwhile, the Bemidji, Minn., family also is occupied with younger son, Graem Fenson, in action for the U.S. at the 2018 World Junior Curling Championships in Scotland.
Not that this is anything new for the Fensons.
Pete's father, Bob Fenson, competed on the Bemidji team that won Nationals in 1979 and represented the U.S. at that year's World Championships. Pete Fenson has won eight national titles himself, including one with his brother, Eric Fenson, whose son, Riley, recently skipped a team that included Graem Fenson to a U18 national championship at the Bemidji Curling Club.
"My dad's curled forever," said Alex Fenson, a 23-year-old Bemidji State University student. "My grandpa curled, and it's just been in the family forever. They never really pressured Graem and I to play, but we thought, 'Why not? Everybody else does, so we'll give it a go.'"
Alex Fenson serves as the lead for the team his father skips. The rink also includes Bemidji native Mark Fenner and Chisholm, Minn., resident Shawn Rojeski.
The father-son duo first competed together at Nationals last year, forming a team prior to the 2016-17 season with their eyes on the 2018 Olympics.
"He just asked me if I wanted to play," Alex Fenson said, "and he's like, 'Do you want to make a run at the Olympics?' And at that point we had a chance to do that. So I was like, 'Yeah, I'd love to.'"
Though they were ultimately unable to qualify for the Olympic trials, the two have enjoyed competing together during the past two seasons.
"It's been fun," Pete Fenson said. "It has its challenges, obviously. It's a different dynamic having father and son on the team. It's a work in progress. I really enjoy my time with him. It's lots of fun that I get to do this with him, and you know, I hope he feels the same way about it."
"Last year was the first year I started playing with him and it's fun," added Alex Fenson. "It's different. There's definitely a little bit of a different dynamic with the father-son aspect out there. But it's good. I mean we get along pretty well. We get over it."
Pete Fenson, 50, can see some of himself in Alex.
"He grew up in my house. I mean we talk about curling a lot," the elder Fenson said. "What he does out there, I can see all the things we've talked about over the years of curling."
Growing up in the same household with someone who has such a prominent role in curling—Pete Fenson works as an analyst for NBC Sports covering the Olympics and Curling Night in America—has given Alex Fenson an accessible figure to emulate.
"He's been a role model for me forever," Alex Fenson said. "I've grown up wanting to be like him. Curling-wise, I've been watching him play forever at a competitive level and be very successful. I've grown up wanting to do the same thing."
Alex Fenson will complete his studies at BSU this semester and will leave with a degree in exercise science and an eye on potentially attending optometry school in the future, though that depends on how long he decides to continue curling.
In the meantime, he is relishing the chance to curl with his father this week, while also cheering on Graem Fenson from across the Atlantic.
"It's almost like business really," Alex Fenson said of how he and his brother support each other during tournaments. "... We'll check up on each other and see how it's going and send them a 'There you go, bud. Keep it up.' Stuff like that. Like it's not huge communication, but when we get back home, that's when we talk all about the event and all about the week."
Back in Fargo, Team Fenson tried to keep its playoff hopes alive Wednesday, March 7, falling 5-4 in the afternoon session to move to 4-4 on the week with one more game to go in round-robin play. Results of the final draw Wednesday night were not available at press time.
"When we're in the heat of battle here, we're just trying to play great and win games," Pete Fenson said. "Right now we're trying to get ourselves into the playoffs still. But when I've had time to sit back and reflect (on) this week, it's really been a fun time."