Fourth! It is toughest place to finish in any race, and one Alex Gough and the Canadian Luge Team is all too familiar with.
Leaving the 2014 Olympic Winter Games with three, fourth-place finishes, the Canadians were dealt another double-dose of the fourth-place sting on Sunday in Altenberg, Germany.
Gough was fourth in the women’s race before leading her Canadian mates to the same finish in the second team relay of the season.
“Of course, you always want to be jumping onto the podium, but I look at those fourth-place finishes and it tells me I’m right there. The performance and equipment is good and if I can put it together I will be there,” said the 30-year-old Gough.
The most successful luge athlete ever in Canada didn’t go down without a good fight on the 1,220-metre Altenberg track where she clocked a two-run time of 1:44.807.
Slow out of the gates relative to traditionally quick starts, the three-time Olympian battled back to climb one spot in the standings after clocking the fifth place time in the opening blast down the 15-corner track.
“I struggled at the start all week and just couldn’t find my groove with it. I was way too far behind at the start and that showed at the bottom of the track in my first run,” said Gough. “I evaluated things with the coaches between runs, made some changes and I was able to bounce back. I fought for that spot. I would have loved to jump onto the podium, but I can’t say I’m not happy with how I did.”
The second fourth-place finish of the season for Calgary’s Gough, she will look to build on clocking the third-fastest time in her final heat on the tricky Altenberg track where she has one career podium.
“I love this track. It is a fun track with technical sections and other spots where you have to let it go. It’s a good mix and a track I really enjoy sliding on,” said Gough, who added the conditions were ideal. “I was just missing it a bit technically and wasn’t as sound at the start as I have been in the past.”
Gough finished behind three German women. Natalie Geisenberger won the race with a time of 1:44.241. Tatjana Huefner slid to the silver medal at 1:44.398, while Dajana Eitberger edged out Gough for bronze with a time of 1:44.733.
Calgary’s Kim McRae finished 16th at 1:45.763.
Gough got another crack at the Altenberg track when she and her fellow Canadians headed back to the women’s start house to take on the world in the team relay.
Posting another fourth-place time in the opening leg of the relay, Calgary’s Mitch Malyk held the Canadians in fifth spot before smashing the green paddle at the finish to clear the track for the doubles sled of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith. The Canadian tandem once again clocked the quickest reaction time, but then struggling to bring the sled home leaving the Canucks off the podium in fourth at 2:23.558.
“I was happy with my performance in the relay and did my part,” said Gough, who was also part of Canada’s silver-medal winning relay team at the World Cup opener this year in Igls, Austria. “As a team, we have to work on finding the consistency. Everyone needs to have a clean and decent run down the track. We know we can do it and I feel we could have been second (again) today. We all need to be there and we are looking forward to having a strong showing in Calgary next week.”
The relay is a one-run bomb race that begins with a women’s sled, men’s singles sled followed by a doubles sled. Athletes hit a paddle that hangs over the finish line of the track to open the gate for the next competitor.
The Germans also celebrated the gold in the relay with a time of 2:22.644. The Austrians celebrated the silver medal, while the Italian team secured the final spot on the relay podium after stopping the clock at 2:23.115.
The Viessmann Luge World Cup now travels across the pond to Winsport’s Canada Olympic Park. Official training begins on Wednesday with the Nation’s Cup on Thursday. Races are scheduled for December 8-9.