Olympic Luge Medallists Tristan Walker and Justin Snith Slide into Retirement
WHISTLER, B.C.—The most successful doubles luge team in Canadian history are parking their sled after a historic career highlighted by an Olympic silver medal.
Tristan Walker (Cochrane, Alta.) and Justin Snith (Calgary) said goodbye to the sport they love on Saturday morning, wrapping up an impressive journey with one final run as forerunners to the doubles race at the Eberspächer Luge World Cup on the 16-corner Whistler Sliding Centre track where they made their first of four Olympic appearances in 2010.
“I think something like this is bittersweet,” said Walker. “We are both moving on to things we are both excited about, so it feels right. But it’s definitely a little bit sad too. It feels like it is time.”
Arriving onto the international race scene at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games as wide-eyed 17-year-olds, Walker and Snith were part of a legendary run for Canadian luge led by their Olympic medal-winning teammates – Alex Gough and Sam Edney – who were both first to greet them at the finish dock Saturday along with family and friends.
The four-time Olympians marked the end of the most successful era in Canadian luge by toasting a brew at the finish dock – a nod to the German roots of their sport, with a very distinct Canadian flair.
“(I think of) all of our teammates,” added Walker. “The success together is what I think of today and all of the hurdles we went through as a team, and then to come back together four years later and win that silver medal (PyeongChang 2018) is what I’m most proud of. To have Sam and Alex here with us today is special. It’s so great to have everyone here to support us and we will now be able to support this new group.”
Feeding off Gough and Edney blazing a trail to the international podium, the Canadian tandem of Walker and Snith contributed a few chapters of their own to the luge history books.
They became the first Canadians ever to win a medal in a World Cup doubles luge race in Konigssee, Germany in 2014, finally breaking through after a handful of fourth-place finishes. The triumph ignited an electrifying run on the Canadian Luge Team over the next five years with multiple athletes delivering podium performances.
Walker and Snith, who both share a passion for aviation, grabbed two more bronze medals at World Cup stops in Calgary 2015 and Lake Placid 2019 in addition to taking on the anchor leg for 17 team relay World Cup medals, and four team relay World Championship medals. But their most memorable run came at the 2018 Olympics when they solidified the silver medal in the team relay for Canada.
“Looking at our career and the sport in general, Canada is such an underdog. It’s nice to have been able to capitalize on the opportunities that we have had and prove to the world that we can do it,” said Justin Snith, who will now study instrumentation at college. “I hope the next generation keeps moving the program forward.”
In addition to chasing one final shot at the Olympic podium last year where they finished seventh, the now 31-year-olds mentored a new generation of Canadian luge athletes including a promising new doubles team of 20-year-old, Devin Wardrope and 21-year-old Cole Zajanski who are competing in Saturday’s World Cup.
“It’s time to hand things over to the young guys. It feels so nice that we were able to do one last season with those boys,” said Walker. “They have really impressed us, and they nipped at our heels last year. There was a couple of times last year we thought it may have been them doing the Olympic race for Canada.
“We are super proud of them, and I feel like we are leaving the program in good hands with them, and that feels really good.”
After taking their sled into the Canadian Team’s locker-room for the final time, Walker and Snith remembered the army of coaches and supporters who helped them along this memorable journey to the top of the international luge world.
“The people are what made this journey the best,” said Snith. “We are just so grateful to everyone along the way and will enjoy sharing this moment with all of them today.”
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.