2 Manitoba curling teams heading to world juniors celebrated in send-off party
Skips Mackenzie Zacharias, Jacques Gauthier will be leading respective teams after claiming Canadian titles
Two Manitoba curling teams had their official send off Sunday before making their way to Russia to represent Team Canada in the world junior curling championships.
Skips Mackenzie Zacharias, Jacques Gauthier and their rinks are heading overseas to play in the international competition held in the city of Krasnoyarsk starting Saturday.
The local curling community rallied around the two Manitoba teams at the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club on Sunday.
The hall was decked out in red and white. Curling played on television in the background as coaches and athletes from the women's and men's teams thanked their supporters — and roasted their teammates in front of family and friends.
Wearing matching dresses and heels, and suits and ties, respectively, the two teams said goodbye to their supporters back home.
They will be facing a new crowd while surrounded by different sights and sounds in a foreign country.
Zacharias and her crew claimed their spot on the world stage after beating Alberta last month in the Canadian finals.
Now, they've turned their focus on preparing for the world juniors.
Zacharias said she's excited to represent Canada and her home province while wearing their official team jackets that just arrived by post the other day.
"It's just incredible having that maple leaf on your back, and your name is also on the back of that jacket," Zacharias said.
"It's just a dream come true."
The women will be up against nine teams — Denmark, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Coach Sheldon Zacharias said they will be taking it play by play. "All we can do is play one game at a time. One step at a time, one rock at a time, one end at a time," he said.
"And if we can do that, and stay focused and play well, I think we should have some results in the end, but only time will tell."
With two daughters on the team, he is both a proud dad and coach. His team will be facing all new competitors, which adds to the challenge.
"It's very exciting," he said.
For the first time, Manitoba skip Gauthier will be leading the men's side at the world juniors.
The 21-year-old competed as an alternate on the world stage in Scotland two years ago, where he won gold alongside his cousins.
"All eyes on Russia now," he said.
His team is grouped with nine international competitors: Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
Both the men's and women's teams fly out of Winnipeg on Monday.
The winners will be decided in the world finals on Feb. 22.