(L-R) Matt Hamilton, Chris Plys, John Landsteiner and John Shuster after the Men’s Round Robin match against Team ROC at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on February 9, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Plys joined Tyler George for the upcoming Olympic Trials, for Sochi, where they edged a bit closer to the top of the mountain with a fourth-place finish. Four years later, Plys played third for Heath McCormick’s team in 2017. This time, they reached the best-of-three final against Team Shuster. But after McCormick Rink won the first game, Shuster’s team came back to win the next two and earn another Olympic berth.
Shuster’s team of George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner won gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.
When George chose to retire as a gold medalist, Shuster and Co. needed a replacement. The team only considered one name: Chris Plys.
It was a natural fit; Plys had experience with Shuster, Hamilton and George, and Plys was from Duluth, like Shuster and Landsteiner. The players had known each other for years.
“Chris Plys is an incredible curler,” Shuster said in November at the Men’s Olympic Trials. “He hurt our ass in the final last time out, so I know he’s going to be hungry to be here in the final and go for a win.”
And winning Team Shuster did, beating a team led by Korey Dropkin — Plys’ teammate in 2017 — in three games, again in a comeback after dropping the opener. Plys had already won the Mixed Doubles Trials by then, but the trip was not complete enough. He and Persinger had to travel to the Netherlands in December to qualify for their Olympic spot, and they quickly went undefeated. Suddenly, Plys was competing in two events at the Games.
In Beijing, Plys was once again a fan favourite, bringing the USA team faithful with him on social media during an Olympics otherwise inaccessible to fans. Plys shared his sense of humor and personality before, during and after the Games as people once again fell in love with the original sport of curling. And that was when he was busy duplicating Persinger and his men’s team.
Full circle, the storybook ending when Plys returned to the Games would have been one of medals. Instead, Persinger and Plys were eliminated after round robin play, and Team Shuster fell in the men’s bronze medal game. But Plys learned long ago that no athlete is guaranteed such things.
“I’ve been working very hard with my sports psychologist for the past few years,” Plys said in Beijing. “My career leading up to John was full of disappointments. I believe I developed a certain courage and a certain way of looking at things to be able to move past the things that I can no longer control.
Shortly after Persinger and Plys were eliminated from their tournament, Plys was asked how he would go from that disappointing loss to joining Team Shuster to help defend a gold medal.
“The only time I really played back-to-back majors was last year and we were lucky to win them both,” Plys said. “So I’ve been riding high since May, basically.”