Racing in her home-away-from-home, Canada’s Elisabeth Maier battled to sixth place in a tight skeleton World Cup race in Igls, Austria on Friday.
The 11-time World Cup medallist, who also has one World Championship podium under her belt, clocked a two-run time of 1:49.55 to finish in sixth spot.
“I’m definitely happy with the result as training once again wasn’t going well,” said Maier. “This is probably one of the hardest tracks on circuit. Unless you are a rocket on the start, you must be perfect if you want to win. The atmosphere here was truly magical.”
Calgary’s 24-year-old Maier was in the medal mix after her first blast down the relatively flat 1,478-metre track which puts a premium on a fast start. She dropped two places in the standings after a challenging second run.
“I’m not the strongest starter so I really have to have a good drive and a good (sled) set-up,” said Maier. “Today the start was close to a personal best, my equipment was fast, and my drive was very medium. I’m pleased with the sixth place but wanting to hunt some more clean lines down this track. My Bromley sled helped me keep the speed even when I made mistakes.”
Austria’s Janine Flock thrilled the hometown crowd with a victory in the women’s race. Flock was fastest in both runs, setting the golden time at 1:48.64. Russia’s Elena Nikitina slid to the silver at 1:49.07, while Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling won the battle for the bronze with a time of 1:49.09.
Two other Canadians also hit the start line for the women’s race. Ottawa’s Mirela Rahneva finished in 13th place with a time of 1:49.87. North Vancouver’s, Jane Channell, grabbed the final spot in the top-15 after clocking-in at 1:50.04.
It was a memorable day for Canada’s Maier who was racing in front of extended family in Austria. Maier, formerly Vathje, married Austria’s top bobsleigh pilot Benjamin Maier following the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“To be home this week with my family helped me remove a bit of the stresses of racing, and just enjoy some love,” said Elisabeth Maier. “It was truly incredible being on the start line today. Having my loved ones cheering so hard and so loud. It definitely helped my start times today.”
Maier and her Canadian mates will make a brief stop in St. Moritz, Switzerland before returning to their home ice at the Whistler Sliding Centre for Canadian Championships, and to fine-tune their preparations for the 2019 World Championships on Canada’s West Coast, February 25 – March 10. While admittedly not in top form right now, Maier has had good vibes in Whistler, winning the World Cup stop there in 2016.
“I am where I am right now, and of course it’s not where I want to be because I expect more of myself. I am pushing myself daily to improve,” said Maier. “Where I’m sitting now is totally due to my driving. I’m not as one with my sled as I normally am so I end up fighting it. I need to start getting that feeling back before heading to North America. Thankfully we have two days of training in St. Moritz where I can get that flowy feeling back again!”
Earlier in the day, Kevin Boyer was the lone Canuck to complete two runs in the men’s race. Struggling in his first heat, the Sherwood Park, Alta., cleaned things up in his final run, posting the eighth-fastest time to finish in 18th spot overall with a time of 1:48.01.
Dave Greszczyszyn, of Brampton, Ont., did not qualify for the second run with the top-20, placing 22nd.