Every team at the Canola Provincial Junior Curling Championships had a decent-sized cheering section behind them at the Brandon Curling Club this past week.
There was one fan in particular that Austin Mustard liked having at the rink. While most people would think it would be normal for a younger brother to come out and support his elder sibling, it took a lot of work for Graham Mustard to make the trip.
Graham, who’s 14 years old, was involved in a car accident in November that put him in the hospital for just under a month, as he recovered from a pelvis broken in seven places, his stomach moving on top of his right lung and a large hole in his diaphragm. Graham was still in a wheelchair while watching the junior provincials, but Austin was happy to have him there.
"For the most part, I’m just happy part of the family is here," said Austin, an 18-year-old apprenticing electrician in Carberry who skipped a curling team based out of Portage la Prairie.
Like any set of siblings, the Mustards have a complex relationship. They get along fairly well at home, but they aren’t afraid to get on each others’ nerves, either.
Both boys curl, although Austin said they can’t play together without driving each other crazy.
So the two skipped their own teams this season, and even met in the Westman Junior Super League earlier in the season, with the elder brother winning bragging rights.
However, all those emotions were put aside as soon as Austin learned of the accident.
"I didn’t know what was going on," he said. "I almost puked and rushed to the hospital to see what was going on. I couldn’t believe it. … It was so hard. He’s my younger brother. I couldn’t believe it happened and luckily he’s OK."
The road to recovery for Graham hasn’t been easy. He was in a coma for nearly a week and is still in a wheelchair, although he hopes to get back on his feet soon.
While Austin appreciated his younger brother travelling from Carberry to support him all week, he wished he could have played better at provincials. His squad finished with a 2-4 record, well out of the playoff race.
Still, Austin hopes Graham learned a lot from watching the junior provincials, some experience that will help him with his future curling career.
Meanwhile, Graham was happy to be able to support his big brother.
"I’m kind of glad I can be here and support him a little bit," Graham said.
"I’m just happy he can come and watch and see what provincials is like and if he can ever make it, have his experience here and get healthy," Austin said.