(ISN) – LAKE PLACID, N.Y.—Canada’s Elisabeth Vathje may have shocked the world, but not herself, winning the silver medal in her first-ever World Cup skeleton start at the season-opener in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Friday afternoon.
The 20-year-old Calgarian, who took up the sport six years ago where she has spent the bulk of her time competing on the North Amercia’s Cup development circuit, capitalized on her experience on the challenging 1,455-metre icy chute to clock a second-place, two-run time of 1:51.90.
“I’m so excited and a little overwhelmed,” said Vathje. “My goal was top-six today, but I really had no expectations.
“My first run was pretty good so going into that second run, I just relied on my years of experience here and let ‘er fly.”
Experience was one thing, but the World Cup rookie credits her new Bromley sled as a difference maker. Kristan Bromley is a former world champion skeleton athlete from Great Britain.
“That sled is a game changer,” said Vathje. “It is an incredibly quick sled and it was rocking today. Having access to Kristan, (the sled maker), on Tour is huge for me.”
Speaking of Britain, Elizabeth Yarnold won the first women’s skeleton race of the season with a combined time of 1:51.13. Austria’s Janine Flock slid to the bronze after clocking-in at 1:52.04.
A program that has had a string of Olympic, World Championship and World Cup medallists, Vathje’s silver medal was a golden start to the season for Canada’s new-look skeleton squad that has been struggling for financial support. Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton is sending five new athletes onto the World Cup this year.
“I know the skeleton program is struggling right now so I really saw these first World Cups as a great opportunity to say Canada is still here, and we can win,” said Vathje. “With this result, I will now be a lot more relaxed heading into Calgary next week. I have a lot of experience there so I’m looking forward to it.”
Two other Canadian rookies also suited up on Friday. Calgary’s Lanette Prediger finished 11th at 1:53.12, while 20-year-old Canadian Champion, Madison Charney of Brooks, Alta., placed 19th at 1:54.56 in her first World Cup start.
In the men’s race, it was the lone Canadian with World Cup experience – 35-year-old Dave Greszczyszyn – who led the way with an eighth-place finish. The Brampton, Ont. native, who is a substitute teacher in Calgary, posted a two-run time of 1:49.32.
Two other Calgary-based Canadians made their first World Cup start. Barrett Martineau finished 16th (1:50.05), while Greg Rafter did not qualify for the second run with the top-20 after clocking the 25th fastest time in the opening heat.
Latvia’s Dukurs brothers finished one-two on the men’s skeleton podium. Martins won the gold with a time of 1:47.42, while Tomass slid to the silver at 1:47.72. Matthew Anotine, of the United States, locked the bronze at 1:47.86.
Earlier in the day, it was the men’s two-man bobsleigh race that officially kicked off the World Cup sliding-sport season.
Canada’s top duo of Justin Kripps (Summerland, B.C.) and Lascelles Brown (Calgary) teamed up to finish seventh at 1:51.85. Calgary’s Chris Spring and his Ontario-based brakeman, Alex Kopacz, placed 14th with a time of 1:52.41.
Germany’s Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis set the golden standard at 1:51.14. Latvia’s Okars Melbardis and Daumants Dreiskens were second at 1:51.31, while American’s Nick Cunningham and Casey Wickline slid to the bronze medal with a time of 1:51.40.
The World Cup continues on Saturday in Lake Placid, N.Y. with the women’s bobsleigh and men’s four-man races.