SEATTLE — In a tournament for young men, the team from Seattle’s Granite Curling Club likely will be younger than any other at the upcoming World Junior Curling Championships in Flims, Switzerland.
And almost certainly, 14-year-old Luc Violette of Lake Stevens will be the youngest competitor. Even in junior tournaments, where curlers are 21 and under, Violette stands out for his youth.
During competitions, Luc’s dad Tom Violette is used to people “coming up and asking me, ‘Who’s the young kid?’ … For him to be 14 and playing in a world championship is pretty amazing.”
But in the sport of curling, physical attributes such as size, speed and strength matter little. What counts is mental prowess and shot-making skill, and in those respects Luc Violette is advanced beyond his years.
Playing on their home ice two weeks ago, Violette and teammates Jake Vukich of Seattle, who is 20 and the team’s skip (captain); Evan McAuley of Seattle, 18; and Kyle Lorvick of Lake Forest Park, 17, won the 2014 United States Junior Curling men’s championship. With the title comes the opportunity to represent the U.S. at the 10-country world junior championships, Feb. 26-March 5.
“When we were playing at our best (at the national tournament), we were definitely playing at a world-class level,” said Luc Violette, a ninth-grader at Cavelero Mid High School in Lake Stevens. “A world-medaling level. And if we play like that consistently all week (at worlds), there’s nothing that’ll stop us from medaling.”
“There’s no doubt they could win it all or win a medal,” Tom Violette said. “And if they all stick together, they’ll have a great shot next year, too.”
Tom Violette grew up in the northern Minnesota community of Chisholm, in a region “where every little town has a curling club,” he said. He took up the sport as a boy and continued playing as an adult after moving to Washington.
His men’s team from the Granite Curling Club reached the finals of the U.S. championships four straight times from 1990-93, winning in 1990 and 1992. Those victories sent the team to the world championships, and in 1992 they won bronze medals by finishing third.
Tom Violette got his son started in curling when Luc was 4. Luc Violette also played hockey as a boy, but after several years of playing both sports he gave up hockey to focus on curling.
He joined his current team three years ago, and in that first season the quartet competed at the U.S. junior championships, placing sixth. They were second a year ago and then followed up by winning this year, beating a team from Pennsylvania 7-5 in the finals.
At worlds they will face junior teams from Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and China. The tournament uses a round-robin format, with the top four teams advancing to a playoff. The Americans are aiming for their first gold medal since 2008.
“This team is playing very well, but it’s all about how we walk into the competition,” said Jake Vukich, a commercial fisherman who attended Ballard High School. “That’s what’s going to make or break us. We’ve got all the fundamentals and all the skill we need to win gold, and now it’s just battling that 6 inches between your ears.”
“Luc’s just been so lucky to play with an amazing group of kids,” Tom Violette said. “They get along so well and their chemistry is just unbelievable.”
The world junior championships come just days after the Olympic men’s curling competition concludes in Sochi, Russia. Luc Violette and his teammates will be closely following that event and no doubt dreaming of competing in the Olympics themselves someday.
“The Olympics are the top of the top,” Vukich said. “It’d be a dream to go there and represent the United States and actually do really well.”
“Going to the Olympics is a pretty big dream,” agreed Luc Violette. “It’d be the dream of a lifetime.”