Wolfgang Staudinger to Step Down as Head Coach of Canadian Luge Team Following 2022 Olympic Winter Games
CALGARY—After leading the transformation of Canada’s luge program from participant status into Olympic, World Championship, World Cup and Youth Olympic Games medal-winners, Wolfgang Staudinger will end his 15-year reign as head coach of the Canadian Luge Team following the 2022 Olympic Games.
Staudinger made the difficult decision in conjunction with Luge Canada this week to support the organization in developing a succession plan that allows for a transfer of knowledge and seamless transition as the national program develops a new generation of high-performance luge athletes.
“Fifteen years is a long time. As I start to reflect, I’m partly really proud of what we accomplished together, and I’m also sad it is over, but I do realize nothing lasts forever and it is time to move on in life,” said Staudinger, who won a bronze medal for Germany as a doubles slider at the 1988 Olympics.
“When I came here, I made it clear I was not going to reinvent the wheel, but to focus on building on the programs that were already in place. I looked at the potential of this program and I knew that we could likely sting like a bee at times, but never did I think we could accomplish what we did as a team.”
When Staudinger arrived in Canada from Germany, luge took a back seat to other medal-winning sports at the Olympics. Canadian luge athletes had won only three World Cup medals in the sport between 1987 and 2005. One of those athletes was his wife, Marie-Claude Doyon.
But Staudinger’s passion for excellence, and tireless efforts to deliver results with the goal of propelling more Canadian athletes onto the international podium, quickly transformed the program and made Team Canada a force to reckon with on tracks around the world for the next decade where the team accomplished what was once unthinkable – climbing to the number-two ranked nation behind the dominant Germans on the international rankings.
“The key to our success was that we all worked together and just never quit. Walter Corey did an incredible job leading the high-performance program, and he deserves so much credit as does our entire coaching staff,” added Staudinger.
“But, in the end, the athletes were the ones who had to deliver when it mattered most, and they did. Winning is not easy, but they demonstrated what they were made of. They stuck it out through the tough times. They maintained a commitment to winning and should be very proud of what they accomplished.”
Alex Gough became the first consistent medal threat in the history of the program, challenging the German domination. With Staudinger at the coaching helm, Gough snapped a run of 105 consecutive wins by the German women when she claimed her first World Cup victory in Paramonovo, Russia.
Sliding onto the podium while rewriting the history books on tracks around the world, Gough went on an electrifying medal-winning run that included six World Championship podiums and 27 World Cup medals. Four of those World Championship medals, and another 16 World Cup medals, came in the Team Relay with Sam Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, who also delivered multiple World Cup podium performances in their own categories for Staudinger.
Edney became just the second Canadian male ever to stand on the men’s individual luge World Cup podium. His breakthrough came in 2014 at home in Calgary when he also became the first Canadian male to win a World Cup race in the sport. In addition to being a key sled in the team relay where he celebrated 15 World Cup and three World Championship medals, Edney went on to become the first Canadian male ever to win a World Cup luge medal outside of the country when he slid to the bronze on the PyeongChang track in 2017. He also added a silver at the World Cup race in Calgary in his final preparations for the 2018 Games where and Gough put an exclamation mark on their remarkable careers.
“In 2009, the system started to grab. I knew once the system was in place we could be right there, and we did it,” said Staudinger.
Shortly after the 2010 Olympics on home ice, the next generation of Canadian luge athletes were born, and began to follow the track to the podium. Canada was developing medal winners at all levels of the sport, including Kim McRae, along with Walker and Snith. McRae racked up multiple World Cup medals along with a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships that she captured between fifth place finishes at the 2014 and 2018 Olympics.
The tandem of Walker and Snith also had top-five finishes at the last two Olympic Games and became the first Canadian doubles team to slide onto the World Cup podium.
“Looking back, what I am most proud of is being able to turn an underdog team not doing anything into a real consistent medal winning team at all levels, and of course for them to finally stand on the podium at the Olympics in 2018,” said Staudinger. “To do this in Germany is easy because you have an entire system behind you, but to do this here in Canada with our little program, where we don’t have access to the same level of resources in our sport as countries like Germany, makes me very, very proud.”
His greatest memory was not only celebrating Alex Gough’s bronze medal triumph and the Team Relay’s silver-medal strike at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, but also when he knew the door to the international podium was finally open.
“Winning the two medals in PyeongChang is definitely at the top of the memory bank, but the first time Alex (Gough) won a World Championship medal in 2011 is something I will never forget. It took forever for that happen. We were fourth so many times, but that is such a great memory because she broke the ice and we never looked back,” said Staudinger, who added it is now time for someone younger to come in and guide the team into a new era.
“Wolfgang is an extraordinary leader, who has done an exceptional job of creating a culture focused on winning,” said Tim Farstad, executive director, Luge Canada. “He has played such a pivotal role in Luge Canada’s evolution, and getting the best out of Canadian athletes who were once considered underdogs in the sport. He gave our athletes the belief they could win – and they did.
“His passion for seeing his athletes succeed at the highest level is a huge reason why support for our athletes, coaches and national sport organization has never been stronger. Our community owes him our gratitude. We wish Wolfgang and his family the very best of luck.”
Before Staudinger closes the chapter with Luge Canada, he will lead the new generation of Canadian luge athletes out onto the World Cup circuit beginning next week with International Training Week in Beijing, China – a track he will coach Team Canada at the Olympic Games one final time, February 4-20, 2022.
Luge Canada will begin its international search for a new head coach to succeed Staudinger and lead the national program into the next Olympic quadrennial.
The Canadian Luge Association is a not-for-profit organization responsible for governing the sport of luge across the country. With the financial backing of from the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, the Canadian Luge Association safely recruits and develops the nation’s current and future high-performance luge athletes with the goal of regularly climbing onto the international podium. For more information on the Canadian Luge Association, please visit us at www.luge.ca on the Internet.