- MORITZ, Sui.—Canada’s Mirela Rahneva slid into skeleton’s Royal Family after adding her name to a prestigious list of athletes who have won World Cup titles at the birthplace of the sport in St. Moritz, Switzerland on Friday.
The 28-year-old rookie on the elite skeleton circuit captured her first ever World Cup title in convincing fashion – winning with a two-run time of 2:16.53 on the only non-refrigerated track in the world.
“It means a lot to be able to get my first win on this track. It is such a special place,” said Rahneva. “I was really able to focus this week, and I knew what I needed to do on the track. I did all the right little tweaks that we practiced in training and it came together today. I’m overwhelmed and it was a great day.”
Dominating with explosive starts, the former wedding planner who hails from the nation’s capital, shattered the fastest skeleton women in the world on the 1,700-metres stunning chute of natural ice that winds its way to the finish in the town of Celerina.
Rahneva carried a sizeable seventh-tenths lead into her second trip down the historic piece of art where she cruised to victory.
“This place really is so special. The track is so smooth and the place is decked out every year,” added Rahneva. “Being natural ice it is different every year, but I was able to adapt and learn quickly this week on a challenging track.
“We all just appreciate the work that is done behind the scenes here and the tradition of this place. I am so privileged to be able to slide here, and win.”
Kendall Wesenberg, of the United States, was the next best finisher at 2:18.36. Austria’s Janine Flock was third with a time of 2:18.51.
Calgary’s Elisabeth Vathje, who has two World Cup victories under her belt this year, narrowly missed the podium in fourth at 2:18.53. Jane Channell, of North Vancouver, battled into ninth spot at 2:19.08. Channell was in 13h after her first descent but moved up four spots when all was said and done after clocking the seventh-fastest time the second run.
Rahneva’s powerful starts off the block along with her consistent driving down the toughest tracks in the planet have left many believing she was born to compete.
She does afterall come from gifted bloodlines. Her dad Stoyan was a competitive acrobatic gymnast. Her mom Valentina was an elite sprinter.
Rahneva has leveraged her days of sprinting on neighbourhood sidewalks in Ottawa once the family immigrated to Canada in 1997 to become a standout athlete.
A former rugby player at the University of Guelph where she studied tourism management, Rahneva decided to take her raw speed to the skeleton track after meeting two-time Olympic bobsleigh medallist Heather Moyse while competing on Canada’s rugby sevens squad.
Immediately hooked on the sport following a Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton recruitment camp, Rahneva left her job as a wedding planner to chase an Olympic dream sparked when she was a young child by her parents who immigrated to Canada from Bulgaria.
Now competing in just her fifth World Cup race, Rahneva has made quite the statement that she will be a force to reckon with in the final charge to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games when they open up in one-years time in Pyeongchiang, South Korea.
In addition to Friday’s gold, Rahneva also has two bronze medals this year. Her first came in the week prior to the holiday break in Lake Placid. She also slid a bronze five days ago in Winterberg.
“I didn’t expect (this success). I am definitely surprising myself,” added Rahneva. “I am getting a little more comfortable on my sled and have a lot of confidence, but every track is different and brings new challenges so this will be short lived and we have to get ready for next week.”
Barrett Martineau Leads Canadian Men in 11th
While not a podium, it was a personal best for Barrett Martineau on the St. Moritz track where he slid to 11th place.
The 25-year-old Calgarian posted a two-run time of 2:16.89.
“Being a man made track it is a little different every year so you have to relearn the corners. Training was rough this week so I’m glad I was able to pull it together for the race,” said Martineau. “This track is special. The environment and surroundings are beautiful. There is nothing quite like sliding here.”
Latvia’s Martins Dukurs won with a time of 2:15.10. Korea’s Sungbin Yun was second at 2:15.13, while Russia’s Nikita Tregybov locked up the bronze with a time of 2:15.65.
Edmonton’s Kevin Boyer and Dave Greszczyszyn, of Brampton, Ont., did not qualify for the second run finishing 23rd and 24th.
The World Cup continues on Saturday with the two-man and women’s bobsleigh races.