(ISN) – WINTERBERG, Ger.—Canada’s Elisabeth Vathje capped off a dream rookie season on the World Cup skeleton circuit with a bronze medal and fifth podium finish on the year in WInterberg, Germany on Saturday.
Sitting in second place after the first two runs on Friday, the 20-year-old Calgarian hung on to win the bronze with a time of 3:50.74, making her the eighth Canadian woman to medal at the premiere skeleton dance over the last 12 years.
“It is surreal,” said Vathje. “I didn’t have the best two runs today, but it was good enough to get on the podium. It really is amazing. I never expected this and it was such a rollercoaster season for all of us.”
It certainly was. Making the national team for the first time in her career, the season started out by learning the skeleton program would be cut from a big chunk of its funding.
Defying all odds, the determined Vathje did up her chinstrap and went to work to do her part in saving Canada’s skeleton program which has a tradition of excellence. She captured the world’s attention in her first race by winning a silver at the World Cup in Lake Placid. The soft-spoken Canuck backed that up with her first World Cup victory on her home track in Calgary the following week. Vathje’s silver streak continued into Europe where she finished second both in Igls, Austria and again at the birthplace of the sport in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
“None of this has set in yet,” said Vathje. “The gold in Calgary or even the silver in Lake Placid. It is just surreal, but I am so, so happy. I just hope these results further help the skeleton and secure the funding we need.”
Lizzy Yarnold, of Great Britain won the women’s title with a time of 3:49.95. Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling slid to the silver at 3:50.62.
Canada’s Jane Channell was sitting in a tie for third after her opening two bombs down the Winterberg track. Holding the start record in Winterberg, the 26 year old from North Vancouver celebrated her best career result despite getting edged off the podium in fourth with a time of 3:50.80.
“I’m really happy with how the race went. I made a small mistake on my push for the third run, which ended up costing me,” said Channell, who started the season fore-running the first two World Cup races where she showed tremendous potential.
“I knew it was all or nothing in my final run. I tied my start record on the track (5.22), had my fastest down time and was able to move up to fourth place. This is my best result on the World Cup this year and to come fourth in my rookie season in only my fourth year sliding motivates me for the years to come.
“With two of us in the top-four, I hope it shows that there is potential for medals in races leading up to, and including, the 2018 Olympics.”
Calgary’s Lanette Prediger rounded out the stellar day for the Canadian women, sliding to 10th with a time of 3:51.94.
But the day, and the year, belonged to Vathje.
Too old 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 Bromley sled and team of coaches as being the keys to her medal-winning season
“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.
“I am so, so happy for our entire program today, and especially Jane (Channell). Our results today show the strength in the Canadian program. I am excited for all of us in the program. Today I believe we showed the potential we have, and that is very exciting.”
The 2015 Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships wrap up on Sunday in Winterberg, with the four-man bobsleigh race.