A new-look Canadian luge squad will leave the World Championships with a lot of positives despite a fifth-place finish in the team relay on Sunday in Winterberg, Germany.
Calgary’s Kim McRae, Reid Watts (Whistler, B.C.), along with Olympic medallists from Calgary, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, battled through miserable weather conditions to post a combined time of 2:24.875.
“I think with the relay there are a lot of positives for us,” said Wolfgang Staudinger, head coach, Canadian Luge Team. “With Reid being so young and Kim in school most of the year, the team did a decent job and we need to be happy with fifth.”
Competing in only three races this year, the 26-year-old McRae was first out of the gates for the Canucks where she clocked the fourth-fastest time after punching the green paddle that hangs above the track at the finish chute.
Olympian Reid Watts demonstrated a lot of potential after throwing down the top reaction time against many of the top sliders in the world. The 20-year-old held his spot before green light flashed for the veterans of the team, Walker and Snith in the doubles sled. The Canadian duo also continued their dominance in the start handles, posting a top reaction time of their own, but were not able to move the Canadians any further up the leaderboard and settled for fifth.
“I think we could easily have had fourth today, but the podium would have been really tough,” said Walker. “It was really awesome to see Reid have a first-place reaction time, and hold his own against some of the bigger names on the singles circuit.”
For the first time ever, the Germans did not win the World Championship Team Relay. Russia finished on top of the podium with a time of 2:24.116.
Austria slid to the silver medal with a time of 2:24.624, while the Germans were disappointed with the bronze medal at 2:24.647.
Canada won the Olympic silver medal in the relay last year with retired Olympians Sam Edney and Alex Gough. A new era for the sport in Canada, the team won a bronze medal at the season-opener in Whistler.
“We know where we are at right now and the work that needs to be done,” added Staudinger. “Reid is only 20 and is sliding really well. He just needs to build some more muscle and he’ll be able to improve his start times. We know Kim will be back where she needs to be when she can commit more time to sliding. The tendencies are heading in the right direction. This process takes time, but I’m confident we will be okay.”