Teen team becomes youngest ever to qualify for Nova Scotia Scotties
Team Ladouceur girls, aged 16-18, is youngest team to compete in province's Tournament of Hearts
A team of teenage girls has become the youngest ever to qualify for the Scotties provincial curling championship in Nova Scotia.
Two years ago, the Tournament of Hearts opened up competition to junior teams, allowing athletes who were aged 21 and under to compete.
Now Team Ladouceur, which practises at the Lakeshore Curling Club in Lower Sackville, has qualified to compete against Nova Scotia's top curling athletes.
"Everybody gets their chance during their curling career to do something really cool," said 17-year-old Emilie Proulx.
Proulx, who has been curling for almost a decade, said she's looking forward to competing against female athletes she's watched on television since she was little.
"You're playing all these amazing curlers you've heard about your whole life and it's kind of a monumental step in your life," she said.
Nova Scotia's 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is being held from Jan. 8 to Jan. 14 at the Dartmouth Curling Club.
Proulx said while curling isn't as popular among her age demographic as hockey, there is a growing number of people who are getting into the sport at a young age.
That means young people also have what it takes to compete at higher-level adult tournaments.
"You see people progressing quicker," she said.
Proulx and her team practise on the ice five to six days a week.
"It's so much fun because you have your focus and intensity on the ice but off the ice you're a group of teenage girls living your best life, having a time together," she said.
The team's skip, Isabelle Ladouceur, agrees.
"I love my teammates so much. They're my best friends," she said. "We definitely all share a bond that's bigger than anything I've experienced before."
The team's coach said they're in a unique position to do well because unlike older junior athletes who might be in the midst of university exams, this team is still in high school allowing for plenty of ice time.
"The players improve a lot and improve very quickly, [and] they're also very enthusiastic," said Brian Rafuse, who is also the ice maker at Lakeshore Curling club.
He said letting younger teams into major competitions is only fair.
"If you've got the best team in the province, if you're whatever age, you should be able to represent the province."