Luge athletes, Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless, not only won the nation’s first medal at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games, they became the first Canadians ever to slide onto the podium in women’s doubles on Saturday.
The best friends from Whistler, B.C. came from behind in the final run down the iconic 1,155-metres of natural ice to secure their place in the history books with a silver-medal time of 1:52.709.
“It is absolutely amazing. I can’t even describe how it feels to be an Olympic medallist, but it is something we will carry with us for the rest of our lives,” said Nash, who was fourth in Friday’s women’s singles race.
The 16-year-old Canucks were on the outside looking in, sitting in fourth sport after their first decent down the 13-corner track which finishes in the town of Celerina.
Motivated to secure Canada its first medal of the Games, the Canadian duo answered the bell, putting down one of their best runs of the week.
“Sitting in fourth, it definitely put a fire in our belly on that second run to get onto the podium,” said Nash.
It certainly did. They Canadians put down the second-fastest run in the final heat at 56.415.
“We really wanted to end it here on a good note,” added Corless. “We know that we put down the best run we could on that second run and it definitely paid off.”
After getting off the sled, with friends and family who made the trip across the pond to the sliding sport shrine cheering them on, all the youngsters could do is wait for the remaining sleds to finish.
“It was so intense waiting here in the finish. We spend 24/7 together. We are best friends and we are just so happy to have this moment together,” said Corless. “That second run we just really wanted to work on having a fast start, carry the speed and at the bottom let the sled go and whatever was going to happen would happen.”
“We put down the best run we could,” added an emotional Nash. “Once we made it down, we kept climbing spots. It is such an amazing feeling, and to have all of our families here with us is incredible. We have so much support from them and everyone back home, so it is very special to share this with everyone.”
Only the gold medallists from Germany (1:51.443), Jessica Degenhardt and Vanessa Schneider, could do better. Latvia’s Viktorija Ziedina and Selina Zvilna were third at 1:53.043.
Nash and Corless are just the third Canadian sled ever to win a medal at the Youth Olympic Games. Fellow Whistler resident, Reid Watts, opened Canada’s medal haul at the 2016 Youth Olympics by winning the bronze in men’s singles. Calgary’s Brooke Apshkrum won the first gold medal for Canada in 2016 the following day in women’s singles. Both athletes went on to represent Canada at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Head coach, Matt McMurray, has led all three Canadian sleds to the Youth Olympic Games podium.
But on Saturday, it was a historic day at the birthplace of the sliding sports for two new teenagers poised to carry the torch for the next generation of Canucks in the sport of luge.
“We are so happy to have this historical moment on a historical track,” said Nash, who along with Corless also made history last month on their home ice as the first women ever to compete in a World Cup doubles luge event with the men in the 62-year history of the sport.
“I don’t think three years ago when we began doubles together any of this was ever a possibility,” added Corless. “To be standing here, and now making history twice in the last month, is definitely not a normal life for a 16-year-old. We have so much support for each other, at home and from the community which is key to our success.”
Not to mention a world-leading track in their backyard left over from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which has been a breeding ground for Canadian luge athletes.
“These results today continue to demonstrate the benefits of hosting an Olympic Games and having access to facilities at home,” said Sam Edney, high-performance manager, Luge Canada, who competed at the 2010 Games and was part of Canada’s historic silver-medal winning relay team in 2018.
“Vancouver 2010 changed our program forever. With the support of our sport partners, a new high-performance culture was established luge in Whistler and across Canada. This next generation of Canadian luge athletes now believe they too can win. Their performance on a big stage is an inspiration to all athletes on the West Coast and is proof that success breeds success. Caitlin and Natalie should be very proud of what they have accomplished over the last month under some very intense pressure.”
In an effort to provide more competitive race opportunities for women, the International Luge Federation introduced women’s doubles racing on the youth circuit last year. Corless and Nash have been excelling in the new format. They were the 2019 Youth A Overall World Cup winners in women’s doubles.