Canada’s Mirela Rahneva slid to her second career World Cup gold medal at the birthplace of the sliding sports in St. Moritz, Switzerland on Friday.
The 30-year-old Rahneva rocketed to the top spot of the podium after chalking up a combined time of 2:17.77 on the only non-refrigerated track in the world to secure her sixth career medal on the elite circuit.
“It feels really good,” said Rahneva. “I love it at St. Moritz. I’m trying to figure out why it is exactly so I can bring it with me to other tracks, but I think it is just the long straightaways and beautiful ice. It a privilege to slide here.”
In addition to the history, the 1,700-metres of stunning natural ice that winds its way to the finish in the town of Celerina has become a special place for the Ottawa native. Her only other World Cup victory came at the birthplace of the sliding sports in 2017.
“I have a smile from the dressing room to the start line, and I keep that smile all the way. It is beautiful here. You are sliding in the middle of the forest. It is very peaceful and quiet. You just really get in the moment because it is so quiet,” said Rahneva. “This is my jam. It is my track and I’m not giving it back.”
Struggling to find her top form in the post-Olympic year that led her to finish third overall on the World Cup in her rookie season three years ago, Raheva took advantage of fast starts and great driving to secure the gold on Friday. She was sitting in second spot after the first run but jumped to the top of the standings with the fastest down time in the second heat at 1:08.55.
“The last time I went into Horseshoe (corner) and hit the roof and was 13th in the first run. Then I had a track record run. This year I told myself to stay away from the roof. I made a mistake in the first run that threw me off a bit and went into Horseshoe nervous but came out okay. The second run today I laid it down and solidified it,” said Rahneva.
“This result is huge. I definitely thought I’d have a better season this year and was questioning a lot of things. It hasn’t been very enjoyable and tough mentally, so it is good to have a that little confidence boost going into the North American portion of the Tour and the World Championships in Whistler.”
Rahneva topped Russia’s Elena Nikitina who was forced to settle for the silver medal with a time of 2:18.00. Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling won the bronze at 2:18.63.
Canada’s other two sleds in the women’s race also fished in the top-15. North Vancouver’s Jane Channell wasn’t able to capitalize on top-three start times in both heats, finishing in 13th place overall with a time of 2:20.56. Calgary’s Elisabeth Maier was also strong off the start while sliding to 15th place at 2:20.67.
In the men’s race, Canada’s Kevin Boyer enjoyed his best result of the season with a 10th-place finish. The Sherwood Park, Alta. native was sitting in sixth spot of his first rip down the track. He dropped four spots into the standings in 10th after the second run, finishing with a combined time of 2:18.04.
Dave Greszczyszyn, of Brampton, Ont., also had a solid day sliding to 11th spot. Greszczyszyn clocked a two-run time of 2:18.18.
Korea’s Sungbin Yun won his first race of the season, setting the time to beat at 2:15.96. Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov slid to the silver at 2:16.16, while Nikita Tregubov claimed the bronze at 2:16.23.