WHISTLER, B.C.—Alex Gough put down one of the best runs of her life on at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Saturday night to win the Viessmann Luge World Cup women’s race.
The 29-year-old blonde bombed pulled the fastest start and rocketed down the 10-corner track in a golden time of 38.796 for the third victory, and 23rd medal, of her career on the Viessmann Luge World Cup.
“It has been a crazy week with all that has gone on, but I have had lots of training here, and I am so comfortable on this track. I just told myself to sit down in the start, I had a job to do and I’m going to go down the track and see where it lands me. Today it was enough to put me on top of the podium. It is fantastic,” said Gough, who also has two World Championship medals in women’s singles racing on her impressive resume.
The Calgarian edged out two German athletes for the win. The reigning World Champion, Natalie Geisenberger, slid to the silver medal with a time of 38.848. Tatjana Huefner locked up the bronze medal at 38.850.
International Luge Federation officials condensed the competition to a one-run race following a bizarre week for the world’s top luge athletes. A truck carrying all of the sleds from the previous Viessmann Luge World Cup stop was held up in Manitoba due to a winter storm. The sleds were then diverted to the Winnipeg airport and finally shipped by air, but didn’t arrive into Whistler until Friday night, preventing all nations from having a full week of training.
“I have the same routine that I follow regardless of the race. I look at each run as its own so it was just a matter of doing my normal prep today,” said Gough, who added on top of everything the entire Canadian Team were sick with colds while waiting for their sleds to arrive. “The time off likely helped us all recover, but for me it was really the anticipation of it all this week. I just wanted to get on the track and slide.
“The track crew did an amazing job. The track is in fantastic shape and I’m just thrilled to finish on top.”
Recently married and back in Canada’s luge program full-time after splitting her time over the last two years between going to engineering school at the University of Calgary and sliding, a focused Gough was back in the winner’s circle for the first time in four years.
Her last victory came in 2012 when she slid to the top step of the podium in Calgary. She became the first Canadian ever to win a Viessmann Luge World Cup race in 2011 when she finished on top in Paramonova, Russia.
It was the three-time Olympian’s third podium finish on the 2010 Olympic Track. She won the bronze medal at the 2013 World Championships, and had a silver medal the last time the fastest athletes on ice slid on the lightening fast track that careens down Blackcomb Mountain.
Sliding to the bronze, Gough shared the podium last week with teammate Kim McRae who captured her second-career medal on the Viessmann Luge World Cup with silver in Lake Placid.
Calgary’s McRae couldn’t find the magic in Whistler, finishing 19th with a time of 39.518.
Canada’s top doubles tandem of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith had their best result of the season after sliding into fifth spot.
After pulling the third fastest start in the field, Walker, of Cochrane, Alta., and Calgary’s Snith slid just shy of the podium with a one-run time of 38.728.
“It’s a step in the right direction. It was a little frustrating because anytime your within a tenth of a second of the podium, you think about what you could have done differently, but I don’t think we left much out on the ice tonight,” said the 25-year-old Walker. “We pull one of the fastest starts in the world. We need to take advantage of that to get the sled down the hill as fast as we can.”
The Germans bolted down the challenging Olympic Track on Saturday night, grabbing the top-two spots on the doubles podium. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken were first at 38.542. Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt celebrated the silver with a time of 38.570. Austria’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler posted a third-place time of 38.642.
Struggling to put down two consistent runs in each of the opening two races of the season, the Canadians were looking to test that this week.
“For us we are comfortable sliding here. We have had hundreds of runs here so that played an advantage in our hands today,” said Snith who turned 25 earlier this week. “We tried to take advantage of that as much as we could today. I am kind of disappointed because we may have thrown away fourth spot (with a little mistake). I would have liked to have that second run tonight.”
British Columbia teenagers, Matt Riddle of Whistler, and Adam Shippit of Pemberton, gained valuable experience competing against the world’s best, finishing 18th at 39.236.
The men’s singles race wraps up the 2016 Viessmann Luge World Cup on Saturday night.