WINTERBERG, Ger.—Canada’s luge athletes got a huge wake up call at the season-opening World Cup race in Winterberg, Germany despite placing three sleds in the top-10 of women’s singles and doubles racing on Saturday.
Calgarian’s Kim McRae and Alex Gough finished sixth and 10th respectively in women’s action, while Tristan Walker (Cochrane, Alta.) and Calgary’s Justin Snith climbed four spots after clocking the fourth-fastest final run time to place seventh in the doubles race.
“I believe this was a big eye opener for our team today. The World Cup is the best athletes in the world and does not allow for inconsistency or any margin for error if you want to be on the podium,” said Wolfgang Staudinger, head coach, Canadian Luge Team.
“There are lots of positive things happening, but we simply are not sliding to our full potential. The world is not standing still. We are here to win medals so if we want to compete with the best we need to push ourselves. I know what this team of athletes are capable of, but we must work harder and be more consistent.”
Strong starts, but sloppy sliding down the 15-corner track was the theme of the day.
The 24-year-old McRae was fifth in her first run, but dropped one spot in her final trip, finishing sixth with a combined time 1:51.790.
“I was very luck today. I pulled two good starts but I had a rough ride on the way down. I was able to clean it up a bit in the second run, but I know I need to work on my consistency in training,” said McRae.
A World Cup medallist in 2014, the sixth-place result was easily her best finish on the tricky German track.
“It is a track I’ve had a lot of troubles with in the past. It is not a hard track, but it is hard to be fast because it is more of a gliding track so you need to let the sled go,” said McRae. “I know I can be on the podium, but the goal for me is to have two consistent runs every race. I need to clean things up and start that next week.”
Three-time Olympian and the most successful luge athlete in Canadian history, Alex Gough, had the second-fastest start in both runs but made costly errors in the bottom portion of the track as well and finished 10th at 1:51.929.
The German women put on a clinic Saturday. Natalie Geisenberger led wire-to-wire, posting a golden time of 1:50.724.
Tatjana Huefner was second at 1:51.132, while Dajana Eitberger completed the podium sweep for the Germans with a time of 1:51.389.
It was a similar story of inconsistency for the Canadians in the doubles race.
Multiple World Cup medallists, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, rebounded after a costly opening run where they found themselves in 11th spot after experiencing big issues in the bottom part of the track, which is faster and more challenging. The Canadian duo were much cleaner in the second heat, clocking the fourth-fastest time to finish seventh at 1:26.747.
“We are disappointed for sure because we’d like to have two consistent runs,” said Snith, who admits Canada’s doubles sled has traditionally struggled in Winterberg. “Looking at the second run we were right in the game where we left off last year. We know we can be there on the podium, and should be there, but there is still time even in that second run that we can make up.
“Little mistakes cost us significant spots. Hopefully this second run drives us forward, but we need to minimize those mistakes.”
The Germans also swept the doubles podium. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken were a definitely a model of consistency en route to winning the gold with a time of 1:25.905. Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm were second at 1:26.287, while Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt completed a perfect day for the German nation on the luge track with a third-place time of 1:26.426.
The World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany wraps up on Sunday with the men’s singles race.