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Young Canadian Speed Queens Demonstrate Promising Future Sliding on Olympic Stage in Beijing

BEIJING, Chn.—A trio of young Canadian women took a giant step forward in their development while sliding feet first down the Olympic luge track in Beijing, China on Tuesday.

Two teenagers from the West Coast – Trinity Ellis and Natalie Corless – led the way finishing 14th and 16th respectively. Calgary’s Makena Hodgson slid on their heels in 17th spot.

Feeling the pressure of the moment, things got off to a shaky start on Monday night for the 19-year-old Ellis. The easy-going teen rebounded quickly, crediting a switch in her pre-run music from rap to jazz for helping to help chill her nerves for the Olympic spotlight. She climbed four spots in the standings to sit 13th overall at the midway point of the four-run event held over two days.

“It was good to get those first two runs out of the way. I wanted to keep things consistent, try to have fun and enjoy my final two runs,” added Ellis, who calls Pemberton, B.C. home.

A three-year veteran of the World Cup Team despite her young age, Ellis held her spot in the third heat and was nearly flawless in her last run until crashing out of the final corner before flipping back onto her sled. The error dropped her to 14th with a combined time of 3:56.864.

“Obviously I didn’t want to end things that way. It is a bit disappointing but I’m still happy with how things went overall,” said Ellis.

The youngest athlete in the Olympic women’s field, Natalie Corless, sported a smile across her face shield while crossing the finish line in 16th spot at 3:57.255. The Whistler resident had a firm hold of 15th place until a small blemish on her final run.

“It was four solid runs. My goal for this race was to just to have fun with it. It has been such a crazy season and to put down the best four runs I have had all year here, makes it mean so much,” said Corlesss, who was inspired to try luge while watching the 2010 Olympics in her backyard.

Corless is no stranger to sliding on the big stage. She captured a silver medal in women’s doubles racing with Caitlin Nash at the Youth Olympic Games in 2020.

“This has been a dream that took a long time to realize. When I started luge (at 11 years old) I never would have pictured myself here now. The last two years, two months and two weeks have gotten so crazy. I’m just so proud of where I ended up. Pushing every day has led me here.”

The final member of the Canadian women’s trio, Makena Hodgson, lived a dream this week that she has been determined to achieve since she took advantage of a public luge ride that was in her Christmas stocking 12 years ago. Hodgson capped off her dream week, with her best run of the event to solidify 17th spot with a time off 4:57.536.

“I honestly came across the finish line and thought ‘I just did four runs at the Olympics,’ said the 21-year-old Hodgson. “Saving the best for last was an awesome note to end on. The first day I started sliding I said I am going to go to the Olympics. This is a culmination of all of my hard work paying off. I’m a little lost for words right now and my face hurts from smiling.”

An important benchmark in their long-term development was to qualify to earn this critical experience on the Olympic stage that was once again dominated by Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger. The legend of women’s luge won the women’s singles race with a time of 3:53.454. Anna Berreiter, also of Germany, was second at 3:53.947. Tatyana Ivanova, a representative of the Russian Olympic Committee, was third with a time of 3:54.507.

The young Canucks don’t need to look further than their mentor, and the current President of Luge Canada, Alex Gough to know they too have the potential to one day knock off the dominant Germans. A trailblazer for luge in Canada, Gough’s journey l was long and gradual since sliding in her first Olympics as a teenager in 2006. When she retired after the 2018 Games – her fourth Olympics – she did so having rewritten the Canadian record books including winning Canada’s first two Olympic medals in the sport.

Gough became the first Canuck to win a World Cup race in 2011 when she accomplished the feat in Paramonovo, Russia. Her victory ended the Germans’ 105 consecutive race-winning streak on the World Cup. Gough added two more golden chapters in her story – becoming the first Canadian to win a luge race on home ice – Calgary 2012 and in Whistler in 2016. She is also the first Canadian to win two World Championship bronze medals.

Along the way, Gough and her teammates inspired a new generation of luge athletes including the Canadian women who slid into the world’s ultimate sporting event for the first time in Beijing.

“I think this whole experience has been invaluable,” said Ellis. “It was really amazing to watch Alex, and that team, have so much success. I have trouble thinking about long-term goals, but of course we feel we are capable of doing it too (one day). That is obviously a goal that I have in the back of my mind. This week is really going to help me with that moving forward – not just at the next Olympics – but in the next World Cup seasons to come too.”

What happens next will be determined on the track in the journey towards 2026. And judging by the last four runs at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, Canadian luge has a bright future.

Next up on the Olympic Track in Beijing is doubles racing on Wednesday evening.

Complete Olympic Women’s Singles Results: