Canadian Luge athletes celebrate historic day with two bronze medals at Luge World Cup

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by Chris Dornan

January 4, 2014, KONIGSSEE, Ger. (ISN) – Canada’s luge squad wasted little time showing the world they mean business in 2014. On a historic day in Konigsee, Germany, the Canadians won two individual medals on the same day for the first time at a Luge World Cup.

Tristan Walker, of Cochrane, Alta., and Calgary’s Justin Snith won the nation’s first-ever World Cup doubles luge medal after finishing third. Calgary’s Alex Gough stormed to her fourth medal of the Olympic season after winning the bronze. The stellar start to the post-holiday break continued with Kim McRae (Calgary), narrowly missing the podium after shattering her career-best performance with a fifth-place finish at the Luge World Cup in Konigsee. Arianne Jones, also of Calgary, had her best result of the season, placing 12th.

“It was a fantastic day for our team and a rock solid week,” said Wolfgang Staudinger, head coach, Canadian Luge Team, who was recruited to the Canadian program nearly eight years ago from the Germany program. Staudinger hails from Konigssee.

“It was great for Alex to get back on the podium and it was even better to see Kim continue to grow and show she can be there with the best at the start and finish. The doubles finally did it. They were overdue. To be fourth over and over again, you know it is just a matter of time and great to see it happen. Wow – it was a great day for us!”

After rattling off four, fourth-place finishes including at the 2013 World Championships, Canada’s 22-year-olds, Walker and Snith, finally broke through to win Canada’s first-ever World Cup doubles luge medal after clocking a two-run time of 1:40.709.

“It is awesome and especially to do it here in Konigssee which is a home-away-from-home for us,” said Walker. “We spend a lot of time here, and it is always the first place we go to after Christmas. I had a feeling when we’d finally do it that it would be either here or in Canada. It was pretty tense watching the splits come down the track. Standing in the leaders box it was a feeling of relief and excitement.”

The Canadian duo sat in fourth place after the first trip down the Konigssee track. In a sport that demands consistency, the two Canucks clocked nearly identical times at 50.359 and 50.350 down the 11-corner track.

“I just can’t believe it,” beamed Snith. “I’m at a loss for words. It is so nice to see the hard work that we have put in pay off. It’s just huge for us to get a podium before Sochi. We knew we could be there, but to actually do it is nice confirmation.”

Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt set the time to beat at 1:39.956, while Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken slid to the silver at 1:40.253.

On a lightening-quick track that produced a lot of movement in the standings from the first-to-second run in the women’s singles race earlier in the day, Gough stormed onto the podium after sitting in fifth spot after her first bomb down the 1,075-metre icy chute. The 26-year-old Gough clocked a two-run time of 1:40.922. It was the 15th World Cup medal for Gough who will be making her third trip to the Olympic Winter Games in just over one month’s time.

“I didn’t have the best first run, but I did put it together on the second run. That has been kind of the theme of the year for me,” said Gough. “But it was such a good day for our team. It’s so exciting and awesome to see that everyone can be there and fantastic to see the doubles team finally do it.”

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Hufner delivered a one-two punch to the world on Saturday. Thanks to setting a track record, Geisenberger continued her golden run and remained unbeaten this season with a time of 1:40.591. Hufner slid to the silver medal at 1:40.606.

While not in the medals, the story of the day in the women’s race may be Canada’s Kim McRae. Recently named to the 2014 Canadian Olympic Team, the lanky 21-year-old delivered a jab of her own to the world’s best when she sat in third after the first bomb down the track. While McRae was bumped out of the medals after clocking the fifth-fastest final run, the young Canuck shattered her career best by finishing fifth at 1:40.992.

“It is pretty amazing,” said McRae. “My first run was awesome, but I think the nerves may have got to me a bit on the second run. I will learn how to handle that and I don’t think that will take as much time as learning to be consistently in the top-10. Overall I’m thrilled and it is great confidence to know I can be there.”

“When Kim started on the World Cup a couple of years ago, we knew she was the next one in line,” added Staudinger. She is a little bit light still, but has the perfect body type to excel out here. She is working hard. H er performance continues to improve and now she is starting and finishing with the best.”

McRae’s previous best on the international stage was a seventh-place finish at the 2013 World Championships in Whistler, B.C. She also has a handful of top-10 finishes with her previous best World Cup result being eighth, which she posted last year in Konigssee.

The stellar results confirm Canada as a legitimate Olympic medal contender for the first time ever in the luge team relay, women’s singles, doubles and men’s singles. Evolving into one of the most consistent sliders in the world, Calgary’s Sam Edney is also looking to feed off the Canadian momentum and earn his first breakthrough onto the World Cup podium. Edney will hit the start line on Sunday for both men’s singles and the team relay competition.

The Canadian Luge Association is a not-for-profit organization responsible for governing the sport of luge across the country. With the financial backing of from the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, the Canadian Luge Association safely recruits and develops the nation’s current and future high-performance luge athletes with the goal of regularly climbing onto the international podium. For more information on the Canadian Luge Association, please visit us at www.luge.ca on the Internet.

COMPLETE RESULTS: www.fil-luge.org 

Women’s Top-Five and Canadian Results:

1. Natalie Geisenberger, GER, 1:40.591; 2. Tatjana Hufner, GER, 1:40.606; 3. Alex Gough, Calgary, CAN, 1:40.922; 4. Dajana Eitberger, GER, 1:40.933; 5. Kim McRae, Calgary, CAN, 1:40.992.

Other Canadian Results:

12. Arianne Jones, Calgary, 1:41.844

Top-Five Doubles and Canadian Results:

1. Wendl/Arlt, GER, 1:39.956; 2. Eggert/Benecken, GER, 1:40.253; 3. Walker, Cochrane, Alta./Snith, Calgary, CAN, 1:40.709; 4. Penz/Fischler, AUT, 1:40.846; 5. Sics/Sics, AUT,

Canadian Results:

8. Walker, Cochrane, Alta./Snith, Calgary, 1:28.046

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