BEIJING — Chris Plys has dealt with letdowns before. In fact, before he joined John Shuster's team, they were a fairly frequent occurrence.
"My career was chock-full of disappointment," the Duluth curler said. "I've worked really hard with my sports psychologist. I believe I developed a certain grit, a certain way of looking at things, to be able to move past things I can't control."
That's a quality Plys will lean on this week in Beijing, after getting some unwanted time off between the Olympic tournaments in mixed doubles and men's curling. A 6-5 loss to Switzerland on Sunday night eliminated Plys and U.S. teammate Vicky Persinger from medal contention in mixed doubles. They finished the round-robin Monday morning with an 8-4 loss to Great Britain, giving Plys two days to reset before he begins men's play with Team Shuster on Wednesday.
Plys and Persinger began their Sunday with a 3-3 record, in sixth place but still in the hunt for one of four playoff berths. They lost 10-8 to the Czech Republic in the morning session despite several mistakes by the Czechs.
In the evening, they fell behind Switzerland 3-0 in the first end and trailed until the seventh, when they tied it 5-5. The Swiss, with the hammer in the final end, secured the single point to give the Americans a double dose of disappointment at National Aquatic Center. The U.S. trailed throughout Monday's game to finish with a 3-6 record.
Persinger will stick around until the end of the week and then return home. Plys will help her wrap up her first Olympics on a fun note, brief his men's teammates on what he learned about the ice conditions at the "Ice Cube" arena, and move on.
"Mixed doubles is brutal sometimes," said Plys, a two-time Olympian. "Looking back on the week, we were right there in pretty much every single game. It just comes down to one or two shots, and unfortunately, we were on the side you don't want to be on.
"I'll get some rest and hang out with Vicky. Then after that, get back into game mode, put this disappointment behind me and get ready to go."
Plys calls himself a "chronic practicer," the kind of player who wants and needs to be on the ice as much as possible. COVID protocols and travel cut into his practice time significantly in the days before the Olympic mixed doubles tournament started.
That hampered him early in the week. The U.S. won its opener against Australia, but it could never gain consistency as Plys struggled with his shotmaking. After a 3-2 start, the team ended the tournament with four consecutive losses.
Plys shot 74.3% for the tournament, ranking ninth among the 10 men in the field. Persinger shot 74.5%, third-best among the women.
"I know the way we can both play, and we just didn't quite bring it," Persinger said. "It's not like we were absolutely horrible. But there were definitely some ends that will be remembered for awhile, that just got away from us."
By the end of the mixed doubles draw, Persinger said she and Plys were reading the ice well and improving the timing on their sweeping. Plys will now share that knowledge with the rest of Team Shuster after a short break. The U.S. opens the Games against Russia on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Beijing time, about 57 hours after Plys and Persinger wrapped up mixed doubles.
With only a few fans allowed at the Ice Cube, Persinger will try to provide a little atmosphere this week by cheering on the U.S. men's and women's teams. Though she wasn't happy with the outcome, she still enjoyed her first Winter Games.
"I had fun, and I think that's important," she said. "This is what we play for for four years, to get the chance to play here."
Plys only has to wait two days for his next Olympic match. That kind of quick turnaround is new territory for him, but he's confident in his ability to move on.
"I know my boys are hungry," he said. "I'll be ready."