It’s a hypothetical question for which Matt Dunstone would dearly love to find the answer: How would it feel to win a world junior men’s curling championship?
"Someone would have to pinch me and wake me up from a dream," said the 17-year-old skip from Charleswood, whose rink is most certainly in the midst of a dream season.
Dunstone’s West Kildonan Curling Club team of third Colton Lott, second Daniel Grant and lead Brendan MacCuish left for Sochi, Russia, on Saturday in preparation for the Feb. 28 start of the world juniors.
The flight came exactly two weeks after the team beat host Alberta in the final of the Canadian junior championship in Fort McMurray, capping a finish to that event that included a handful of must-win games.
"It’s still pretty cool for us," Dunstone said prior to leaving for Sochi. "It’s something we thought we wouldn’t do this early in our lives. During the whole process of getting our clothing and everything it was starting to sink in that we were becoming Team Canada."
Grant, a 19-year-old St. Vital resident whose father, Scott, is the team’s coach, said the fact he’s a Canadian champion still seems a little surreal at times.
"You have your days where you know you’ve won," said the University of Manitoba theatre major, "and then there’s other days when you’re unsure and you have to give yourself a reality check and realize you did win."
Wearing a Maple Leaf to a major curling event is a big deal, just like wearing the Manitoba buffalo, but Grant said the team has its own unique way of handling those expectations.
"It’s definitely an honour (being Team Canada), and it was an honour being Team Manitoba, but one thing we’ve realized the whole year is, no matter where we are, we’re still Team Dunstone," Grant said. "We’re representing Canada to the best of our ability, but we didn’t start with the Maple Leaf on our back."
Just like they did for nationals, Team Dunstone isn’t going into the event with any particular expectations. But that doesn’t mean they don’t realize the size of the target that will be on their backs.
"Anytime you’re Team Canada in curling everyone’s going after you," said Dunstone, a Grade 12 student at Linden Christian School. "But we’re not putting any extra pressure on ourselves. We’ll let the results show themselves."
The skip said the "coolest part of it all" would be the fact that the junior championship is being used as a test event for the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
"Being guinea pigs for all the Olympians, we’re going to suck it all in," he said.
Added Grant: "We all want to play in the Olympics one day, so it’s great to play at an Olympic venue, to experience this with the four of us all as great friends getting the opportunity to go together."
Team Canada opens play on Feb. 28 against Switzerland. Live streaming of select games will be shown at www.youtube.com/WorldCurlingTV.