LAKE PLACID, NY—Canada’s luge athletes found magic on the slopes of Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, NY on Saturday where they celebrated the biggest day in the history of the program by winning a complete set of World Cup medals.
The women set the tone for the Canadians with Kim McRae and Alex Gough winning silver and bronze respectively in women’s singles. McRae then headed back up to the top of the 16-corner Lake Placid track to join Calgarians, Sam Edney along with Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, for a golden run in the team relay competition to cap off a stellar day.
“I am super pumped for the team. I put down the first run and just watched Sam and the doubles come behind me, and we held on for the gold,” said McRae, who has only been on one other medal-winning relay team for Canada, which came last year when they won the silver in Altenberg.
“It is absolutely awesome for our program and was just an all around great day of racing.”
The relay is a one-run bomb race consisting of one women’s, one men’s and one doubles sled. Athletes hit a pad hanging over the track after crossing the finish line, which opens the start gate for the next team member.
The Canadian Team, who wrapped up last year with a team relay victory at the final World Cup stop, solidified their position on Saturday they reamain one of the top teams in the world after putting down a golden time in Lake Placid at 2:34.627.
“It was a heck of day,” said Wolfgang Staudinger, head coach, Canadian Luge Team. “We proved today with starts, good sliding and consistency – you put the full package together and this is what happens. The team showed their potential today and I’m happy for them.”
The Russians slid to the silver medal position with a time of 2:34.671, followed by the Americans in third at 2:34.815.
McRae and Gough blazed the track to the podium in Lake Placid on Saturday earlier in the day when they shared the podium in the women’s singles race.
Sitting in fourth spot after her opening blast down the 1,135-metre toboggan chute, the 24-year-old McRae rocketed into the silver medal position after posting the fastest second-run time at 44.261, for a total time of 1:28.706.
“Those were the three best runs I have ever had in Lake Placid,” said the Calgary-based Olympian. “The first run was good, but I felt I had a little reserve in me so I just told myself to lay it down.”
It was the second-career medal for McRae. She first broke onto the World Cup podium in 2014 when she won the bronze in Altenberg, Germany – just weeks before the Olympic Winter Games where she went on to finish fifth. Coincidentally, she shared the podium with Gough on that historic day as well, marking the first time two Canadian luge athletes medalled in the same race.
“A lot of pieces have come together over the last few weeks so it felt incredible to stand on the podium and to share it with Alex was unreal,” said McRae. “She has been so important to me. She is a role model, someone I look up to, and someone who I chase every day in training. To stand on the podium and see the Canadian flag on both sides of it brought tears to my eyes.”
Two strong starts and a blistering second run catapulted the 29-year-old Gough into third place on the Lake Placid beast with a time of 1:28.723. It was the 22nd World Cup medal of her storied career.
“I am so happy with the result. Part of me hates the fact Kim beat me and the other part of me is so happy for her,” laughed Gough, who also has two World Championship medals. “It was seriously amazing to have two of us on the podium. Kim is just one of the greatest people in the world that I know. We have great camaraderie. We have nice internal competition where we push each other to be better, and we did that all week in training. To see us both be successful is awesome and great for the program.”
Feeling the heat put on by Canada’s dynamic duo, Germany’s Tatjana Huefner held on to win the women’s race with a time of 1:28.638.
Aside from Gough and McRae who shared the podium in 2014 where they were in reverse positions, the only other time Canada has put two athletes on the same luge podium came in Calgary the year following the Sochi Games when Gough and Arianne Jones were second and third. That memorable day in Calgary also marked the only other time in history Luge Canada had a three-medal day as the doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith also slid to a bronze.
To accomplish the feat on one of the toughest tests in the world – a track where she has only medalled one other time in her career – is something Gough is proud of.
“There are a couple of sections that are so tricky, and it is hard to get the experience you need with having only six runs before the race,” added Gough, who has split time between school and competing over the last two years, but is now back in sport full time.
“This track plays mind games with people because we all know it is tricky. I just wanted to go out and have fun. It is a great track to slide on and today I had two of my best runs in the toughest part through corners 11, 12 and 13.”
Gough, McRae and her Canadian mates will look to build on the momentum when they return to home ice at the Whistler Sliding Centre next week for the Viessmann Luge World Cup, December 9-10.