Team Gauthier pivots training to qualify for Olympic pre-trials

By Emily Chandler

Curling is one of the many sports that has been brushed to the side because of COVID-19.

Team Gauthier returned to the ice at the beginning of October and have participated in two bonspiels so far, but code red in Manitoba has put further games on hold.

“It was great to get back on the ice over the past month,” said Jacques Gauthier, the team’s 22-year-old skip. 

This is Team Gauthier’s first year together with skip Gauthier, third Jordan Peters, second Brayden Payette and lead Cole Chandler. 

The teammates became world champions after placing first this past year in Krasnoyarsk, Russia at the World Junior Curling Championships.

“It was a dream come true,” said Peters. “I had been dreaming of winning World’s since I was a kid.”

The Canadian team swept the finals with a 7-2 win against Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2020.

Gauthier, Peters, and Payette celebrating after winning the World Junior Curling Championship in February. Photo supplied by Team Gauthier.

Chandler, 22, played with Gauthier and Peters two years ago, but this is the first year all four team members will play together. As they get to know one another, they will also adapt to the new rules of the game.

Before the official start of the 2020-2021 season, Curling Canada authorized new regulations for players and coaches in their return-to-play guidelines. New changes say respective skips cannot sweep their opponent’s rocks in the house and there can only be one sweeper per rock.

“At first, I thought it would change the game,” said Chandler. “But we quickly realized it wasn’t all that bad.”

According to CurlingZone, Team Gauthier is currently ranked 36 in the world out of 240 teams in the 2020 World Team rankings for men.

The team spent the last month practicing and preparing for the upcoming season before it was quickly put on hold.

Payette, who is currently enrolled in the Carpentry program at Red River College, said he was disappointed when the province went into code red on Nov. 2.

“If and when we return, we hope to play well in higher field strength events to get as many points as possible,” said Payette.

Team Gauthier hopes to do well at provincials to qualify for the Olympic pre-trials. 

“With both events in jeopardy of occurring, the absolute least we can do is make sure we are prepared for whatever happens,” said Gauthier. 

Curl Manitoba has postponed all competitions scheduled for November and is recommending teams not travel, train, or compete in other regions of the province.