Not one, but two Manitoba rinks will be coming home from central Russia with gold medals around their necks after being crowned world champions.
Both Jaques Gauthier’s rink out of Assiniboine Memorial Club and Mackenzie Zacharias’ Altona Curling Club team were victorious in the finals of the World Junior Curling Championships in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
Gauthier’s rink defended Canada’s title on the men’s side with a convincing 7-2 win over Switzerland in the gold medal game on Friday night.
Canada led the final from start to finish. They scored a pair in the sixth end for a 4-1 lead, and then stole two more in the seventh end. Canada stole another single point in the eighth end, and Switzerland conceded the victory after being held to a single point in ninth end.
“Unreal,” Gauthier said after the win. “It’s going to take awhile for it to set in, but yeah, unreal.”
Gauthier, Jordan Peters, Brayden Payette, and Zachary Bilawka finished the round robin in a tie for first place with a 7-2 record before beating Germany in the semifinal.
It wraps up a whirlwind period for the boys squad, who fell in the Manitoba final but earned a berth in the Canadian championships as a wild card, before winning it all, and travelling to Russia where they would become world champions.
The last Manitoba team to claim the title at the World Junior Curling Championships was Braden Calvert in 2015.
A few hours later, Zacharias and her team handed Korea’s Minji Kim her first loss of the tournament when it mattered most, in the women’s final.
“World champion? That sounds pretty amazing. It was a fantastic game, Korea played great. We struggled a little in the first half, but we played a great second half. It’s incredible and I’m so happy,” Zacharias said following the game.
It was a back-and-forth affair that featured clutch shots from both sides – but Canada prevailed, scoring 2 in the ninth for the win.
Despite the 13-hour time difference between central Russia and Manitoba, it didn’t stop friends and family of the young curlers from taking in the game at a watch party inside the Altona Curling Club.
“The first half of the game was real tight, and they were struggling across a really strong Korean team, but things changed at the half-way point when they stole one heading into the break,” says Altona mayor Al Friesen. “The tides changed and it certainly got louder at our place.”
It’s the fifth time Canadian rinks have swept the world championships – with the last instance happening just two years ago in Aberdeen, Scotland.
There are also direct connections on this year’s teams to those 2018 champions. Gauthier is a cousin of Langley’s Tyler Tardi and was a fifth for that gold medal-winning rink. Zacharias’ third, Karlee Burgess also played for Kaitlyn Jones’ championship team.
– With files from Kelly Moore.