IGLS, Aut—Canada’s Alex Gough bombed into the World Cup season by winning the bronze medal on Saturday at the season-opening race in Igls, Austria.
The 28-year-old veteran demonstrated her off-season training with a third-place, two-run time of one minute, 20.017 seconds (1:20.017) on the relatively flat 10-corner track.
“It was a good start to the year. I wanted better starts. I felt I was a little stronger than what I showed but I am sliding really well and it felt good,” said Gough. “Getting off to a strong start to the season is a good confidence booster for the rest of the season.”
Drawing the 23rd start position of 24 sliders in the first run turned into some bad luck for the most successful Canadian luge athlete in the history of the sport as snow began to fall just prior to her start time, dropping her to fifth place after the opening run. But as the weather cleared for the second trip down the track, Gough did not back down, storming back onto the podium with the second-fastest second run time against a field that is quickly shrinking together – making it tougher than ever to get into the medals.
“There is nothing you can do with the weather so the key was to just keep focused,” said Gough. “I just wanted to let the sled go, and I was able to climb up a bit on that second run.”
Gough was in the medals Saturday with two German competitors. Dajana Eitberger clocked a golden time of 1:19.795. Natalie Geisenberger was second at 1:20.009.
It was the 21st career World Cup podium for the Calgary-based, three-time Olympian who also has two World Championship medals. Gough has now slid to the bronze-medal step of the podium four times throughout her career in Igls.
“I enjoy this track. It is a good track but a tricky track because it is easier and short which brings the times together,” added Gough. “I think the ability of having a good start, staying relaxed and letting the sled run is a strength for me here.”
Calgary’s Kim McRae finished just outside the top-10 in 11th spot with a time of 1:20.474. In a Luge Canada development strategy to mix junior athletes with the World Cup Team for the opening race, 19-year-old Jenna Spencer, of Mount Currie, B.C., also started in Igls. Spencer, who was introduced to the sport with the Vancouver 2010 Games being held in her backyard, placed 20th at 1:21.043.
Canada’s doubles tandem of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith got the World Cup campaign off to a sixth-place finish on Saturday. Walker, of Cochrane, Alta., and Calgary’s Snith teamed up to post a time of 1:20.121.
Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the doubles race with a time of 1:19.381. Austria’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler were second at 1:19.492, while Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, also of Germany, claimed the bronze with a time of 1:19.836.
The World Cup continues on Sunday with the men’s singles and team relay races.
Women’s Top-Five and Canadian Results:
1.Dajana Eitberger, GER, 1:19.795; 2. Natalie Geisenberger, GER, 1:20.009; 3. Alex Gough, Calgary, CAN, 1:20.017; 4. Tatjana Huefner, GER, 1:20.109; 5.Summer Britcher, USA, 1:20.132
11. Kim McRae, Calgary, 1:20.474; 20. Jenna Spencer, Mount Currie, B.C., 1:21.043
Doubles Top-Five and Canadian Results:
1. Eggert/Benecken, GER, 1:19.381; 2. Penz/Fischler, AUT, 1:19.492; 3. Wendl/Arlt, GER, 1:19.836; 4. Rieder/Rastner, ITA, 1:19.898; 5. Sics/Sics, LAT, 1:19.930
6. Walker, Cochrane, Alta./Snith, Calgary, 1:20.121