John Fennell, Kim McRae Capture First Career National Singles Titles at Canadian Luge Championships
—Tristan Walker, Justin Snith retain doubles crown for sixth straight season—
WHISTLER, B.C.—John Fennell and Kim McRae will slide into the 2016 World Cup season as the king and queen of Canadian luge. The two Calgary-based Olympians captured national singles titles, along with Tristan Walker and Justin Snith who won their sixth straight doubles title, on Saturday at the Canadian Luge Championships in Whistler, B.C.
Racing for the final men’s spot on the World Cup squad, 20-year-old John Fennell put down two of his best runs of the pre-season to claim his first Canadian men’s title. Fennell clocked a two-run time of 1:41.662
“It was quite exciting today,” said Fennell. “It was a very, very close race. I’m happy to come out on top. There are things to improve on. I hope to take what I learned today and put that into my training as we continue to prepare for the first international races of the season.”
Fellow Olympian from Calgary, Mitch Malyk, claimed the silver medal for the second-straight season with a time of 1:41.702. A rising young hometown star on the junior circuit – Reid Watts from Whistler, B.C. – slid into the bronze medal spot on the podium at 1:42.218.
Meanwhile, with top Canadian slider Alex Gough back home attending school, the door was open for a new national women’s champion in luge.
Kim McRae seized the opportunity to win her first Canadian Luge Championship title. McRae, of Calgary, posted a golden two-run time of 1:18.774.
“It feels good to get my first win,” said McRae, who is a World Cup medallist and has been pushing Gough each of the last three years at the Canadian Championships. “I had two solid starts, and two good runs so it feels pretty good. Regardless of what race you are in, to hear the Canadian anthem is always a nice way to end the day.”
The fifth place finisher at her first Olympics in Sochi, the 23-year-old McRae took a new approach to her offseason training by taking Taekwondo, in hopes of bouncing back after a difficult 2015 season.
“I got into taekwondo just to help with co-ordination and overall body awareness. That’s my biggest issue on the sled, so I wanted to enhance that and make it better,” added McRae, who got her orange belt. “In the gym, you have to be focused 100 per cent of the time to be able to get the kicks and the punches and everything correct. I still struggle with memory and memorizing things, but I know that it’s slowly getting better and better as we go along here. It is very similar preparation and focus required in luge.”
Calgary’s Arianne Jones slid to the silver medal in her first race since recovering from an offseason injury. Jones, who won the bronze medal in thrilling fashion at the Calgary World Cup last year, clocked-in at 1:19.127.
Calgary’s 16-year-old Brooke Apshkrum snagged the final spot on the women’s podium. Apshkrum, who will be in the running to represent Canada at the Youth Olympic Games this winter, stopped the clock at 1:19:149
Two-time Olympians, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, slid to their sixth straight doubles victory at the national championships. The Alberta duo posted start records (3.297 and 3.291) in each of their two runs en route to blazing a golden trail to the podium with run times of 38.937 and 39.242.
“It feels good,” said Walker. “This is the first year in a long time that we’ve had the opportunity to compete against other doubles sleds and have a full podium at Canadian Championships. It was exciting to see the younger guys coming up out there today, and pushing us a bit.”
“It is nice for us to train with these young kid,” added Snith “I think it is good for us to be able to push the young kids, but also have them pushing us. Having a good race at home gives us the opportunity compare our preparation against competitors to help us better prepare for the start of the season!”
Nicky Klimchuk-Brown and Adam Shippit, of Pemberton, B.C., clocked times of 33.417 and 34.136 to win the silver medal. Whistler juniors – Matt Riddle and Reid Watts, locked up the bronze with times of 33.421 and 33.526.
The Canadian squad will return to Calgary next week before heading to Europe, November 13, for the start of the World Cup season. The World Cup kicks off November 23-29 in Igls, Austria.