(ISN) – CALGARY—Elisabeth Vathje proved she is ready to carry the torch for Canada’s next generation of skeleton athletes after sliding to her first-career World Cup victory on her home track at Winsport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
“Oh my gosh. I can’t believe it,” screamed the 20-year-old Calgarian after getting off her sled while being surrounded by family and friends.
“To win a World Cup gold medal is amazing!”
Vathje is two-for-two in as many World Cup starts. She who won the silver medal in her first-ever World Cup race one week ago in Lake Placid.
First out of the blocks on Friday, Vathje posted the fastest down time in the opening run at 57.75 and watched the world try and chase her.
“The first run was a bit messy, but you take the bumps and you got to absorb it,” said Vathje. “I just had to take the taps and relax on in the sled. I know this track – the way the corners are. I know how the pressures feel and was really just letting the sled go.”
Vathje leveraged a personal best start time at 5.30 in her final trip down the 14-corner track to hold her spot with a combined time of 1:55.31.
“It was such a great way to push off that second run,” said Vathje. “I’ve been at this sport for seven years so there was huge group of people excited to see me race my first World Cup here (in Calgary) and to have great results. It is incredible to do this at home. It is truly amazing.”
Too old at 14 to start luge, and to young to start bobsleigh, Vathje was encouraged to take up skeleton at 14 years of age after her father, Jeff, was on a flight with the Canadian luge squad. A silver medallist at the 2014 World Junior Championships, Vathje credits her new Bromley sled as a difference maker to her blistering start on the World Cup.
“That sled is an incredible boost to this season. It is a fast sled and I just let ‘er fly. I am looking forward to see what it can do the rest of the year, and to see what the rest of the year holds.”
Laura Deas, of Great Britain, was the next best finisher at 1:55.62. Germany’s Tina Hermann slid to the bronze medal with a time of 1:55.64.
A program that prides itself on a tradition of excellence with Olympic, World Championship and World Cup medallists that have now retired, Vathje’s back-to-back medal-winning start is critical to attracting financial support to the program for Canada’s new era of skeleton athletes.
“I’ve got an incredible team of supporters behind me. My coaches Ivo (Pakains), Richard (Bromley) and Rob Gray. All of these people have stepped up to put themselves behind me and it is incredible,” said Vathje.
Two other Calgary-based World Cup rookies suited up for Canada in the women’s race. Lanette Prediger was seventh at 1:56.04, while Madison Charney slid into 10th spot with a time of 1:56.50.
In the men’s race it was 35-year-old Dave Greszczyszyn who led the way with a tie for eighth-place to lead the Canadians. The Brampton, Ont. native, who is the lone Canuck with World Cup experience, posted a two-run time of 1:52.82
Two other Calgarians competed in front of the hometown crowd, but did not qualify for the second run with the top-20. Barrett Martineau was 21st, while Greg Rafter finished 24th
Latvia’s Dukurs brothers finished one-two for the second-straight week on the men’s skeleton podium. Martins won his second consecutive gold with a time of 1:51.06, while Tomass slid to the silver at 1:51.96. Korea’s Sungbin Yun won the race for the bronze with a time of 1:52.23.
Top-Five Women’s Skeleton Results:
1. Elisabeth Vathje, Calgary, CAN, 1:55.31; 2. Laura Deas, GBR, 1:55.62; 3. Tina Hermann, GER, 1:55.64; 4. Sophia Griebel, GER, 1:55.68; 5. Janine Flock, AUT, 1:55.68.
11. Lanette Prediger, Calgary, 1:53.12; 19. Madison Charney, Brooks, Alta., 1:54.46
Top-Five Men’s Skeleton Results:
1. Martins Dukurs, LAT, 1:51.06; 2. Tomass Dukurs, LAT, 1:51.96; 3. Sungbin Yun, KOR, 1:52.23; 4. Christopher Grotheer, GER, 1:52.34; 5. Axel Jungk, GER, 1:52.53
T8. Dave Greszczyszyn, Brampton, Ont., 1:52.82; 21. Barrett Martineau, Calgary, DNQ; 24. Greg Rafter, Calgary, DNQ