Canada's Alex Gough at the Luge World Cup Opener

IGLS, Aut—Canada’s Alex Gough slid into the Olympic year with a solid fourth-place finish at the Luge World Cup opener in Igls, Austria on Saturday.


The 30-year-old Calgarian had the fourth-fastest starts to begin each of her two trips down the 10-corner track where she clocked a two-run time of 1:20.705.


“It was a good race today. It was so tight but we just missed the podium. Alex continues to be in the mix just like every other year so that is good. It is confirmation of her training,” said Wolfgang Staudinger, head coach, Canadian Luge Team.


Gough, who is focused on securing her fourth trip to the Olympic Winter Games, was flying down the 817-metre chute where she put together two strong starts and runs in her first performance of the season.


“It was a solid performance. We have to remember we have four very good German women to battle and beat each week. This is not easy. It’s a tough game, but the good thing is we showed we are right there,” added Staudinger. “It is so tight out here. It could have gone either way. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and you don’t get the good luck. Today we just didn’t have that luck, but that’s okay, because we are right there.”


The German women opened the season with a sweep of the women’s podium. Natalie Geisenberger finished on top with a time of 1:20.488. Dajana Eitberger punched the clock at 1:20.661 for the silver medal, while Tatjana Huefner climbed seven spots and onto the bronze medal step of the podium after posting the fastest time in her final blast down the track for a total time of 1:20.664.


Calgary’s Kim McRae was the only other Canadian on the women’s start list. McRae, who won a bronze medal at last year’s World Championships on the Austrian track, placed eighth on Saturday at 1:20.956.


Taking advantage of a strong summer of training, Canada’s doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, were poised to make their mark and get their name into the medal mix.


The Calgary-based tandem pulled the second-fastest start times in both runs and were in the hunt on their first trip down the relatively flat track until a high exit out of curve nine caused them to overreact, dropping them to 22nd place. The two-time Olympians rebounded in the second run where they clocked the third quickest time at 40.101. They placed 22nd at 1:21.868.


“It was like going down the highway 100 miles an hour, then cranking the steering wheel to the right and then left which left them in a long skid. It killed their speed and they were done,” said Staudinger. “The second run they had nothing to lose and let it run. I know they can be quick and in the mix. They have shown that, but we have to do it twice.”


Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken captured the first gold medal of the year with a time of 1:19.843. Italy’s Ludwig Rieder and Patrick Rastner slid to the silver medal at 1:20.021, while Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt grabbed the final spot on the doubles podium with a time of 1:20.258.


The World Cup continues on Sunday with the men’s singles competition followed by the team relay.

Women’s Singles Results:

  1. Natalie Geisenberger, GER, 1:20.488; 2. Dajana Eitberger, GER, 1:20.661; 3. Tatjana Huefner, GER, 1:20.664; 4. Alex Gough, Calgary, CAN, 1:20.705; 5. Julia Taubitz, GER, 1:20.752.

Other Canadian Results:

  1. Kim McRae, Calgary, 1:20.956


Doubles Results:

  1. Toni Eggert/Sascha Benecken, GER, 1:19.843; 2. Ludwig Rieder/Patrick Rastner, ITA, 1:20.021; 3. Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt, GER, 1:20.258; 4. Peter Penz/Georg Fischler, AUT, 1:20.363; 5. Aleksandr Denisev/Vladislav Antonov, RUS, 1:20.430.

Canadian Results:

  1. Tristan Walker, Cochrane, Alta./Justin Snith, Calgary, 1:21.868