It wasn’t the colour they craved, but Matt Dunstone and his teammates proudly returned home from Russia last week with a medal from the World Junior Curling Championships.
The team from the West Kildonan Curling Club beat Sweden 6-4 to win the bronze medal in Sochi, the site of next year’s Winter Olympics.
"We’re very happy with our bronze," said Dunstone, a Charleswood resident. "We feel very privileged to get the opportunity to play for a medal… but we know we could have won the whole tournament."
The team of Dunstone, third Colton Lott, second Daniel Grant, a St. Vital resident, and lead Brendan MacCuish lost four games all week, and all were by the narrowest of margins. One loss came as a result of a picked rock, and the other three games went to extra ends.
"We’re disappointed in that sense, but we’re happy with the medal we got and we’re looking forward to trying to get back there next year," Dunstone said.
The team played at a high level throughout the week, the skip said, but was a little surprised by the quality of the competition, especially from some countries that aren’t known as curling hotbeds.
"I was definitely surprised," Dunstone said. "All of the games were super close. We played 10 ends in all of our games. In a way it’s nice to see all these countries getting better, but it’s also kind of scary because it means we’ve got to get better. It’s good for the sport, though."
The Russian team — which beat the Canadians in the semifinal and ended up losing in the gold-medal game to Scotland — was one of the big surprises. A lot of that had to do with the country’s emphasis on Olympic sports in preparation for 2014.
"They took a lot of pride in hosting and wanted to do well," Dunstone said. "The guys who were there were guys who curl full time. It’s crazy to hear stories about how all they do is curl."
After back-to-back playoff losses to Scotland and Russia relegated the Canadians to the bronze-medal game, there was more than a little disappointment within the Dunstone rink. But that wore off as the chance to win a medal presented itself.
"It meant a lot to us to get this medal," Dunstone said. "We all wanted it as a memory for the rest of our lives. It’s a game you don’t really want to pass up on, even though it wasn’t the game we wanted to play in."
Spending 10 days in the Olympic city on the Black Sea was something the Canadians won’t soon forget. Dunstone said the mountainous backdrops "looked like someone painted them there," and that their hosts made them feel at home.
"The experience was amazing," he said. "It was tough on the team though, because it was so tough to contact back home with the time difference."
Team Dunstone is already looking ahead to next season, and is determined to get another crack at a world title in Flims, Switzerland.