(ISN) – CALGARY—Alex Gough, Sam Edney, along with Tristan Walker and Justin Snith fittingly kicked off the winter sliding season while battling through a blast of snow from Mother Nature to successfully defend their national titles at the Canadian Luge Championships on Sunday in Calgary.
A three-time Olympian, Calgary’s 27-year-old Gough edged out Kim McRae for her seventh-straight Canadian Crown. Gough, the most successful luge athlete in the history of the Canadian program, posted the fastest runs in each of her two bombs down the 14-corner Olympic Track at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park, clocking a combined time of 1:38.821.
“It was good today. I really thought maybe this was going to be the year that Kim (McRae) overtakes me because she was beating me all week in training,” said Gough, who will race a shortened season while she takes first year engineering classes at the University of Calgary. “Kim has been pushing me and that has really helped me, and the program.”
McRae, also from Calgary, captured the world’s attention during a breakthrough season last year where she and Gough became the first Canadian luge athletes to share a World Cup podium on the same week in Altenberg, Germany when Gough was second and McRae third. Building on that performance just weeks out from the Games, it was at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games when McRae really turned heads after she finished just one place behind Gough in fifth spot in Sochi. The lanky 22 year old clocked-in at 1:38.908 to lock up the silver medal on Sunday.
“It has been great to have Alex to have in front of me to chase. I think I can push her to be better, but I know if I’m ahead of her in training she is always going to be pushing me to be faster and cleaner too. It is good for both of us,” said McRae. “Today I made a bad mistake at the top and with the snow you just lose too much speed and can’t make that up. I need to continue to keep improving and learning.”
The final member of Canada’s women’s luge squad at the 2014 Games, Arianne Jones, rounded out the women’s podium in third at 1:39.496.
Calgary’s Sam Edney also slid to his seventh national title in the men’s singles race. The 29-year-old veteran of the Canadian Luge Team bolted onto the gold-medal step of the podium with a two-run time of 1:34.564.
“It was good today. We’ve had a great block of sliding in Whistler and Calgary, but it is always good to get into a real race setting and see where you are at,” said Edney. “I guess it is fitting we are kicking things off today with winter arriving in Calgary.”
Edney shared the podium with his 19-year-old Olympic teammates, Mitchel Malyk and John Fennell. Malyk stopped the clock at 1:35.450 for the silver medal, while Fennell rounded out the men’s podium in third at 1:36.255.
“John and I are always back and forth battling each other, but to have Sam there for us to measure ourselves against is good for us,” said Malyk. “I had two consistent runs today so I’m happy.”
One of the most talented doubles teams in the history of the Canadian luge program, 23-year-old Calgarians, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, slid to their fourth Canadian doubles title with a time of 1:32.474.
With its 2014 Olympic Team still in tact, Canada’s luge athletes will build off their most successful Olympic Games ever where they posted three fourth, and one fifth-place finish in Sochi.
The Canadian squad will now head to Sigulda, Latvia on Thursday for a week of training. The World Cup kicks off Nov 24-30 in Igls, Austria before heading to North America. Canada will host the third stop on the World Cup circuit, Dec. 8-13, 2014 in Calgary.