Prior to the Canadian junior curling championships in Liverpool, N.S., last month, the furthest Carberry’s Braden Calvert had travelled was the Black Hills in South Dakota.
He’s about to blow that out of the water as Calvert and his Winnipeg-based curling team of Kyle Kurz, Lucas Van Den Bosch and Brendan Wilson are heading off to Flims, Switzerland next week to represent Canada at the world junior curling championships. The trip is a huge highlight for the 18-year-old agribusiness student at the University of Manitoba as it takes him to a new continent and gives him a chance to represent his home country in a sport he loves.
"It’s definitely exciting to take on this new adventure. We’re really embracing it and looking forward to it," he said via telephone from Winnipeg.
Unfortunately for the players, they may not get to do as much sightseeing as they would like. The team takes off for Switzerland on Feb. 22 and it will have a couple days to recover from the jet lag before opening the event on Feb. 26 against Russia’s Sergey Glukhov and Sweden’s Fredrik Nyman.
It will be a lot for Calvert and his team to get used to a new country and surroundings, a different culture, the biggest event they’ve ever played in and teams they’ve never seen before. However, they are bringing Matt Dunstone with them as their fifth, which should help a lot.
Dunstone, who Calvert beat in this year’s provincial final, skipped the Canadian men’s squad to a bronze-medal finish at last year’s world junior championship. Adding him as a fifth gives Calvert an extra set of eyes on the ice and someone who can help them prepare for the trip, which he has been doing.
"He’s definitely given his opinion on stuff, which is great," Calvert said. "He’s let us know how to handle the jet lag and playing teams that maybe speak different languages than us and it’s really helpful."
Putting on his new team jacket with the Maple Leaf and his name on the back gives Calvert a lot of pride, but he knows it brings some expectations with it. Canada is viewed as one of the best curling countries in the world, but it has won only one world junior men’s title in the last six years.
This year’s field includes defending champion Kyle Smith from Scotland and the event will be a challenge for Calvert as the only team he has played before is Jake Vukich from the United States. Vukich defeated Calvert 6-2 at the Sun Life Junior Challenge in Brandon in November.
Calvert said his team isn’t worried about that and is just focused on playing well. They aren’t trying to look too far into the competition either and are ready to roll with the expectations and pressures that come with representing Canada.
"I think there’s definitely pressure for Canada to do well at this event and we’re going to embrace it and do our best," Calvert said. "Just stay relaxed and take it one shot at a time and just live in the moment and not look too far ahead and we’ll be good."
Calvert’s team has been practising in Winnipeg a lot as final preparation for the world juniors and will play exhibition games against Dunstone and provincial men’s champion Jeff Stoughton this weekend.
Before they go overseas, they will head back to Calvert’s hometown of Carberry. The team will be there on Wednesday for a practice session at 4 p.m., and will be honoured later in the evening at the Carberry men’s bonspiel.
It will be Calvert’s first time home since he won the national title, and he’s looking forward to touching base with his hometown supporters before he goes to Switzerland.
"It will definitely be neat to talk to everyone who’s been urging us on through text messages and Facebook and all that," he said. "We just want to say thanks and hopefully they keep supporting us."