Alex Gough and her Canadian luge teammates completed a silver-medal hat trick at the Viessmann Luge World Cup on their home track at Winsport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
The 30-year-old Gough thrilled the hometown crowd by winning a silver in the women’s singles race Saturday morning before adding one more with Sam Edney, Justin Snith and Tristan Walker in the Viessmann Team Relay World Cup competition, presented by BMW.
Gough and Kim McRae built on the momentum set by the Canadian men on Friday night to finish second and fourth-place respectively in the women’s race Saturday morning.
The most successful luge athlete in the Canadian program, Gough was rock solid sliding through the typical Calgary Chinook winds blowing over the 14-corner track to win the silver medal with a time of 1:33.557.
“It is a great feeling. I’ve been close a couple of times already this season so I knew I had the potential to be up there. It feels great to do it here, and especially at home in front of all these people cheering for us,” said Gough.
It was the 26th individual World Cup medal of Gough’s career, and third on the track she grew up on.
“When Wolfgang (Staudinger – head coach) came in he completely over hauled our system and we have done so many more runs here so we have built up that familiarity on the track, and have slid on it in so many different conditions,” added Gough. “It is great to do well here and to come up that outrun and see all of those fans screaming for you is awesome.”
The three-time Olympian was in the hunt for a shot at her first podium since a victory one year ago in Whistler, thanks to a third-place finish in her opening run.
“It was not the best first run, but I was in the mix. It was a typical Chinook wind day in Calgary. We know how the wind works here and we took advantage of it and capitalized,” said Gough, who also has two World Championship bronze medals on her resume.
Gough was sandwiched between two Germans on the women’s singles podium. Tatjana Huefner grabbed top spot with a time of 1:33.442. Natalie Geisenberger was leading into the final run, but dropped to third after struggling in her final heat to clock a combined time of 1:33.6303.
Canada’s Kim McRae finished one spot off the podium for her best-ever finish in Calgary.
McRae, the bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships, slid to a fourth-place time of 1:33.796.
“It was great runs today. I finally was able to let the sled run and have fun with it,” said McRae.
“I was a little more focused off the track this week, but when I reached the start – for me it was game time and I was able to go in with a clear mind.
McRae, along with Gough, matched the performance of their teammates, Sam Edney and Mitch Malyk, in men’s singles on Friday night.
“The boys race yesterday really inspired me today. It has been a rough few weeks for our whole team. We needed this.”
Lost in the medal madness was a career-best finish by Calgary’s 18-year-old Brooke Apshkrum. The gold medallist at the Youth Olympic Games finished 14th at 1:34.681.
The two silver-medallists in singles, Gough and Edney, put the icing on the cake of a triple-medal weekend for the Canucks by adding one more in the spectator friendly relay competition.
The relay is a one-run bomb race that starts with one women’s sled, followed by men’s singles and then the doubles. Athletes hit a paddle that hangs over the track to clear the track for the next slider with the clock still running.
Gough and Edney, along with Walker and Snith masterfully slid their way down the Olympic Track on the western edge of Calgary to set up the top time of the day at 2:21.187 with only the powerhouse Germans to come.
“It’s the best spectator event we have. It is fun to bring everyone together. It shows what we are as a program and that we can all have great races,” said Edney. “My reaction time was a bit slow at the start, but I’m really happy with my run today. My teammates were also able to put down a good one so I’m really proud of them.
The Germans took advantage of small error by the doubles team coming out of the final corner, which nearly prevented them from hitting the paddle, to win the gold medal with a time of 2:21.146.
“This is the first time we have had a relay in Calgary. Sometimes it’s fastest to take a hit off the wall, but we’ve never had to hit a paddle here before. It’s not easy coming out of that final corner and then hitting the paddle with the sun in your eyes,” laughed Walker, of Cochrane, Alta, who was sixth with Snith in Friday’s doubles race. “It is big for our whole team to have a solid weekend here.”
The Austrians finished third with a time of 2:21.589.
The Canadians also won silver at the season-opening Viessmann Team Relay World Cup, presented by BMW.
The Viessmann Luge World Cup now travels to Lake Placid, N.Y. for the final race before the holiday break.