Alaska curler exits Winter Olympics with only memories to bring home: ‘It’s a tough pill to swallow’

Back in her Beijing dorm room a couple hours after her exit from Winter Olympics competition, Fairbanks curler Vicky Persinger summed up her feelings in a word.

“Bummed,” she said by video call with Anchorage Daily News.

“I feel tired,” Persinger said. “We really put all the energy I had left into our last couple games.”

Persinger and her mixed doubles partner, Chris Plys of Duluth, Minnesota, had been eliminated from medal contention before they had reached the ninth and final game of the 10-nation round robin. But she said they had approached the game with hopes to end their Olympic experience on a high note.

It wasn’t to be.

Great Britain’s Jen Dodds and Bruce Mouat, the 2021 World Curling Federation mixed doubles champions, stole three points in the first end. The Americans fought back but never closed the gap.

“It’s tough to claw back against teams like this,” Persinger said, speaking from her seventh-floor corner room in a sea of high-rise buildings.


[Curlers Persinger, Plys finish Olympic competition with losses to Switzerland, Great Britain]

Persinger and Plys ended their run with three wins and six losses, but they played better than their record might indicate, Persinger said. A couple times, the pair were beat soundly. But more often, intense games hinged on a single shot or went down to the wire. Three times, the Americans lost by one point.

“I feel like our record doesn’t reflect a lot of how close the games were,” she said.

In Beijing, both players showed themselves capable of surgical draws and takeouts, but Persinger said each of them needed to shoulder the load in different moments. “I just never felt like we were firing on all cylinders at the same time,” she said.

Recalling the match against Canada, she said a fraction of an inch made a two-point difference in two instances. In the match against Norway, Persinger missed a draw that allowed the opposition to score three points, a knockout punch that didn’t land.

“I thought we had the pedal down on them, and that if we would’ve scored that, we would’ve won the game,” she said.

Such make-or-break moments often fell to Persinger, who throws her team’s last rock every end.

“I can make some great ones, but also it’s more evident when I miss,” she said.

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Norway, Great Britain, Sweden and Italy advanced to the mixed doubles semifinals to determine who will step on the podium.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Persinger said.

Though she will return to Fairbanks with no medals, she will carry memories to cherish. At the opening ceremonies, she entered Beijing National Stadium, also known as the “Bird’s Nest,” walking right behind fellow curler John Shuster, who carried the American flag.

“I was tearing up under my mask,” she said.

She encountered cheerful and enthusiastic volunteers at every turn, she said. Though cloistered from the world in the Olympic bubble, she got more supportive messages than she could sort through, many from strangers. Her father sent her a video of cheering fans who gathered to watch a broadcast of her game at the Fairbanks Curling Club, her home ice since childhood.

[With world-class skill and hometown pride, a Fairbanks curler slides toward Beijing]

Persinger said disappointment has often preceded sweet success during her long curling journey. Beijing 2022 might one day prove to be another such chapter.

“I thought for sure if we were both on our A-game, we’d be medal contenders, Persinger said. “But this, where we finished, really fits right in the pattern of my story.”


As of Sunday night, she wasn’t sure when she’ll leave Beijing. Plys will remain to compete as part of the U.S. men’s curling team, led by John Shuster.

Before Persinger departs, she hopes for a chance to cheer on U.S. athletes in other sports, like speed skating and big air skiing. Once she completes the long trip home, she plans to get some rest and return to her day job at a title insurance company.

“I want to look back and appreciate this experience, because I may never get back,” she said. “But if I do, I will be ready to take that next step.”

Marc Lester

Marc Lester is a multimedia journalist for Anchorage Daily News. Contact him at