Fenson's draw earns U.S. crown

And the magical ride continues ... In yet another dramatic finish that came down to the last rock, Pete Fenson's Team USA captured the 2006 World Curling Team Trials 4-3 over Craig Disher of North Dakota Saturday at the Bemidji Curling Club. The ...

And the magical ride continues ...

In yet another dramatic finish that came down to the last rock, Pete Fenson's Team USA captured the 2006 World Curling Team Trials 4-3 over Craig Disher of North Dakota Saturday at the Bemidji Curling Club.

The Bemidji team will now represent the United States in the World Curling Championships April 1-9 in Lowell, Mass.

The victory capped a dream-like six-week run for the Bemidji team that started out in February with a historic bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

The team had little time to savor the Olympic success, however, returning to the United States late on a Monday, spending a few days at home and then jumping right back in to big-time competition four days later.


Skip Pete Fenson (Bemidji), along with teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm), Joe Polo (Cass Lake) and John Shuster (Chisholm) battled back from an 0-2 start in the tournament to win nine straight and capture the rink's third national title in the past four years. Team Fenson also won the national title in 2003 and 2005.

Once again, the outcome of the latest title match was on the line with Fenson in the hack in the 10th end, slowing spinning the rock in front of him while surveying the ice.

What he saw was a familiar sight -- a draw to the four foot for the win. It was the same shot he faced in the Olympics bronze medal against Great Britain. It was the same shot he faced Friday against Disher in the first round of the playoffs.

This time, the outcome was the same as it had been in all of the other pressure cooker situations Fenson has faced. He calmly drew to the four foot, the rock stopping dead solid perfect, covering the button.

As the rock slid to a stop, the partisan hometown crowd erupted.

Fenson had come through again.

So Pete, how are your nerves holding up?

"My nerves are fine," he said with a big smile, "but I'm tired."


The title game was tight throughout as neither team led by more than one point.

Starting with the hammer, Fenson intentionally blanked the first end.

Things then set up nicely for Team USA to take two in the second, but Fenson's takeout attempt had the shooter roll just a bit too far. After two measurements it was determined Disher's rock was second and Team USA took a 1-0 lead.

Disher then blanked the third. But Team USA forced Disher to take one in the fourth end to tie the match at 1-1.

Things didn't go well for Team USA in the fifth end. Fenson was forced to draw to limit the damage as Disher had three counters under cover. Fenson's shot got inside two of Disher's stones, but Disher was still able to steal one and take a 2-1 lead.

But Team USA came back with one in the six to tie the game at 2-2.

In the key seventh end, Disher had shot rock in the four foot under heavy cover. Fenson played a perfect draw and tap back for shot rock. Disher then tried to duplicate the shot but didn't tap far enough. Fenson then threw up a guard and Disher was forced to attempt an extremely difficult angle raise takeout. It was off the mark and Team USA stole one to take a 3-2 lead.

Disher faced a major decision in the eighth end. Team USA had a rock in the eight foot, the only rock in play. Would Disher go for the hit and roll to blank the end and retain the hammer, or take one and tie the game? Disher chose the straight takeout for one and the game was tied 3-3.


Team USA took the hammer into the ninth. Fenson made a nice double takeout to lie one. Disher then played a takeout of his own to have shot rock. Fenson then made a routine takeout to blank the end and retain the hammer going into the 10th end.

Disher tried to place center guards from the beginning in an effort to steal. But Team USA either moved or removed them all, one after another.

With his last shot, Disher played a fine draw around a Team USA guard to lie shot.

The capacity crowd at BCC then went silent as everyone knew what was coming next. Fenson calmly lined up his shot and let it go with a major celebration soon following.

The grind of the weeks of world class competition clearly showed on the faces of Team USA after the win.

"(Fenson's wife Roxanne) gave us a sheet of paper with a saying on it before the Trials started last week," Fenson said. "It said, 'the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.' It turned into a real rallying point for us. All of us have worked so hard at this the last two years we just couldn't give in.

"Obviously, things didn't start out well as we lost our first two games. We just weren't playing well. But then we had a big team meeting and heavily discussed what we needed to do. After that we just got stronger every game.

"These guys showed unbelievable guts all the way along. Any one of them could have laid down. But they dug deep and kept grinding."


Rojeski said the team had major discussions in the fall of 2005 about whether they should even play in the World Team Trials event.

"Pete and I didn't want to play," Rojeski said. "We knew there would be a letdown after the Olympics and that it would be very difficult, both physically and emotionally, to play."

However, Shuster and Polo kept hammering away at their elder teammates, saying they really wanted to play in the event. "After about four weekends of discussing it, Pete and I agreed to play. We figured if (Polo and Shuster) wanted to play that bad we'd be there for them."


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