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Dunstone team adapting on fly after making line-up change on eve of Olympic Curling Trials

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SASKATOON — The Canadian Curling Trials have not even started yet and there have already been those emotional moments of both joy and anguish that sometimes define sports.

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A day before the final stage of qualifying for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games began, news broke that the Matt Dunstone team from Saskatchewan was making a last-minute change to the line-up.

Regular third Braeden Moskowy withdrew from the event, for personal reasons, and was replaced with Manitoban Colton Lott, who was a Canadian junior champion — on a team with Dunstone — five years ago.

Dunstone, always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, broke down when talking about Moskowy, a long-time teammate who had been there every step of the way as the team pursued the Olympic dream.

“It’s been hard,” Dunstone said, fighting back tears. “This is his moment as much as ours. He’s worked his ass off for all of us to be here.”

Saskatoon Sk.Tim Hortons Curling Trials 2021.Team Dunstone, Skip Matt Dunstone, 3rd. Colton Lott.Curling Canada/ Michael burns Photo
Saskatoon Sk.Tim Hortons Curling Trials 2021.Team Dunstone, Skip Matt Dunstone, 3rd. Colton Lott.Curling Canada/ Michael burns Photo

On the opposite end of the emotional scale was Lott, who found out Wednesday night that he would be playing in the Olympic Trials, jumped on a plane Thursday morning in Winnipeg and was on the ice for practice at SaskTel Centre first thing Friday morning.

“It was out of the blue,” said Lott, a well-known mixed doubles curler (with partner Kadriana Sahaidak) who also played third for Pat Simmons at the recent pre-trials event in Nova Scotia.

“(Dunstone) just asked me if I’d be willing to fill in for Braeden. I couldn’t even kind of grasp what he was saying. Cause this is just such a great opportunity. I was astonished.

“Yeah, it’s a little overwhelming but overwhelming in a way that I’m fully ready for this and can’t wait for what’s to come.”

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Dunstone would not reveal any more about the reasons for Moskowy’s departure, simply saying “We’re going to respect his privacy at this time.”

Regardless, the change to the lineup was so sudden, the team did not even have a jersey or jacket made up for Lott. He wore the gear of second Kirk Muyres on Friday in practice.

“I’m the closest to fitting him,” Muyres said. “His gear is on the way or en route and we needed one for him. So he’s wearing a Muyres shirt. I kinda like it. I think he should be wearing it all week.”

Muyres is from the Saskatoon area and was feeling a wide range of emotions on the eve of a hometown Trials.

“You talk about the roller coaster of emotions,” Muyres said. “You come in, seeing this building, and you’re excited about it and then you realize someone you care about is missing out on it. It becomes really tough, when you see the work and the dedication that goes into it.

“With that being said, it’s one of those things where you have to transition your mind, compartmentalize and move forward with what we’ve got ahead of us.”

Saskatoon Sk.Tim Hortons Curling Trials 2021.Team Dunstone, Skip Matt Dunstone, 3rd. Colton Lott.Curling Canada/ Michael burns Photo
Saskatoon Sk.Tim Hortons Curling Trials 2021.Team Dunstone, Skip Matt Dunstone, 3rd. Colton Lott.Curling Canada/ Michael burns Photo

It could be a tough adjustment for the team, which also includes lead Dustin Kidby.

The good news is all the curlers are familiar with Lott, especially Dunstone, who played on a junior team out of Winnipeg with him for several years.

“You feel comfortable right away,” Dunstone said. “It doesn’t feel like you’re bringing in guest or anything like that. You’re still chirping him the same way you’d chirp a regular teammate. There’s that playful banter with one another. It’s made things very easy.

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“He’s one of the best shot-makers in the world. That’s what you need at these events. If you don’t make shots, you don’t win at these events, and Colton brings that immediately. He’s an easy-going personality and the type of teammate he is, he’s so supportive out there, he’s going to give me exactly what I need, he’s going to work great with our front end.”

Lott was practising on Wednesday night at the Winnipeg Beach Curling Club when he got the phone call from Dunstone. The call came at 8:45 p.m., and by 9:30, Lott said he was in. He then had to rush home, do laundry, pack, get a haircut from his mom — who is a hairdresser — and hop a plane in Winnipeg at 7:40 a.m., the next morning.

“It’s been busy,” 26-year-old Lott said. “I’m just so stoked to be here. This is such a great opportunity. I’m just loving every minute of it. This is such a great atmosphere.”

Adam Kinsgbury, a sports psychologist who serves as the coach of Team Dunstone, said the team remains in good spirits and is ready to tackle the task at hand.

“Honestly, they’ve handled it as you can handle a situation like this,” said Kinsbury.

“At the end of the day we’re here to try to win the Trials and getting out here and getting to practice immediately, it was kind of business as usual. It’s no surprise that you’d be sad, but you can prepare as much as you can and things can change in an instant.

“That’s life, that’s everything. Being able to adapt, is how I want these guys to define themselves.”

Team Dunstone opens the Trials Saturday night against Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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