Canada To Field Strongest Team Ever While Hosting World Junior Luge Championships in Calgary
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“The Canadian luge development program is now one of the most well-built systems in the world,” said Jack MacDonald, president, Canadian Luge Association. “The steady and consistent improvement of our athletes at the junior and World Cup level over the past few years demonstrates world-leading success and a sound development system.”
More than 90 of the world’s top luge athletes under the age of 20 will represent 26 nations when they assemble in Calgary to contest for the World Junior Championship title. Canada will suit up 12 male and female athletes – eight of them being teenagers that compete regularly on the World Cup circuit against legends in the sport nearly double their age.
Calgary’s Sam Edney and Ian Cockerline are two 19-year-old veterans on the young squad that will be battling for the international crown. Fellow Calgarians Matt McMurray, 19, and reigning Canadian champion, Matt Babinec, 16, will join them in men’s singles. Edney will also compete in men’s doubles with 17-year-old Gwyn Lewis, of Calgary. Edney and Lewis have been consistently improving and climbing their way up the World Cup rankings this year. Calgarians Marshall Savill and Winston Davis, both 18, will also team up in men’s doubles, while 15-year-olds, Cameron Gunn and Devon Gell, will drive Canada’s third junior men’s doubles sled.
A well-rounded crop of Canadian teenagers will bring a year’s worth of World Cup experience with them to the women’s event at the 2004 World Juniors. Regina’s Meaghan Simister, 17, who has an 11th-place result on the World Cup, will lead the Canadian charge. Three Calgary women will join Simister including: reigning Canadian junior champion, Amanda Byrne, 18; Madison Dupuis, 16; and Alex Gough, 17.
“Our program is deeper now than it has ever been in its 39-year history. With this group of teens at the core, our long-term sights are set on the country’s first Olympic medals in the sport, and we believe these young athletes have the potential to one day mount the podium,” said Walter Corey, head coach and former national-team athlete. “With the on-going support of CODA, Canada now has one of the best development programs in the world.”
The program was not always this healthy. In 1998-99, Canada’s luge program collapsed to an all-time low. CODA, Calgary Olympic Development Association, joined forces with the Canadian Luge Association to keep the sport alive by developing a strategy to rebuild through difficult times. Soon after the Olympic Luge Training Centre was created at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, and the program has never looked back.
Since those abysmal years, the Canadian Luge Association has transformed into a well-rounded program with a targeted recruitment initiative focusing on athletes from other sports, a long-term development strategy, and a shift to its coaching personnel – a staff that was almost entirely imported from abroad, to one where homegrown experts now lead the development of high-potential athletes.
Walter Corey is joined at the helm of the program by assistant coaches Tyler Seitz and Kyle Connelly. Seitz captured Canada’s first-ever men’s World Cup luge medal in 2003, when he solidified third spot on his home track in Calgary in his final race before retiring from the sport. Connelly, who retired after the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, posted Canada’s best ever-Olympic luge result when he was 11th in Salt Lake City.
CODA has also continued to serve an instrumental role in the programs redevelopment, having spent more than $6 million supporting the national program, including $4.1 million to the construction of the Ice House in 2001, the world’s only indoor push-start training facility, and to providing upgrades to the Olympic Track. As Canada’s leader in creating Canadian Olympic winter sport excellence, CODA has also contributed $1.7 million in direct sport grants to the Canadian Luge Association since 1998.
In addition to sport, CODA also recognizes the importance of education in the lifestyle of young high-performance athletes. With athletes having been recruited to sports, including luge, at a pivotal age in their academic development, CODA, in partnership with the Calgary Board of Education, created the National Sport School in 1994 to give athletes the opportunity to achieve excellence in their academics while continuing to pursue their Olympic dreams.
Canada’s luge athletes have taken full advantage of the school since its inception. With one of the highest sport enrollment ratios in the unique educational structure, the Canadian Luge Association has nearly 25 athletes that attend, or have already graduated from the school.
Training for the World Junior Luge Championships will continue through to Friday, January 30, 2004, when the opening ceremonies will take place at 6 p.m. MTN. The women’s competition and men’s doubles event will begin on Saturday, January 31, while the men’s singles and team competitions will run on Sunday, February 1, with athletes pushing out of the start house at 11 a.m.
The Canadian Luge Associaton is the governing body for luge racing in Canada. In partnership with CODA, the Canadian Luge Association operates the Olympic Luge Training Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, which develops our nation's high-performance luge athletes and promotes the sport across the country. For more information on the Canadian Luge Association, please visit us at www.luge.ca on the Internet.