Luge Canada

Gough in gear as World Cup hits home track

By Rita Mingo, Calgary Herald
November 17, 2009 9:02 PM

CALGARY - Nothing good ever comes from a broken limb, yet, after Alex Gough damaged her ankle during a fluky crash in training a couple of seasons ago, she's virtually skyrocketed to luge's top echelon.

It was a step back in some ways, she said, but having the season where I didn't compete, I developed strength since I spent the whole winter in the gym. I came back with more consistency. It left me thinking: do I want to do this? And I was more committed than ever.

After six weeks of rehab, that commitment and drive was manifested in a hugely successful campaign for the 22-year-old Calgarian, who will kick off the season this weekend on her home track at Canada Olympic Park in the Viessmann World Cup event.

I'm feeling really good and I'm looking forward to starting the World Cup season, Gough submitted. I've been training for seven weeks and I'm feeling a lot stronger and my starts are faster.

Gough doesn't believe in the notion of home-track advantage, even if it's the ice she grew up on.

More than anything it's being comfortable on the track, she explained. That's about it. The best in the world are at the top of their game; it doesn't matter where in the world they are. I started training in Calgary and I know what to do on this track in every possible scenario. But the best in the world are the best in the world.

That, in short, is the company that Gough wants to keep. If 2008-09 is any indication, she's already part of the clique. Last season, she finished in the top 10 seven times and had the best Canadian result at a world championship, when she ended up in fourth spot in Lake Placid. N.Y.

I definitely had a great year, she said. To come back from a broken ankle, I wasn't sure where I was sitting. To come back and pull off seven top-10 finishes and finish among the top in the world was really phenomenal. It builds confidence to keep going in that direction.

At the top of every luger's wish list is not only to attend the 2010 Winter Olympics in February, but to win a medal - something Canada has never done. Gough is a likely candidate.

More than anything, I just want to build on last year's success, she related. If I can pull out a personal best start, that would be a huge thing for me. That's definitely one of the most key areas. I've always been a mediocre starter and I've had to make up ground in the middle of the track . . . and that's hard to do. Then you have to hope that the other competitors make mistakes. If you have a good start, it gives you a little cushion.

The Games in Vancouver will be her second. As a green 18-year-old she wore the team colours at Torino in 2006.

Yeah, I felt like a wide-eyed kid who didn't know what she was doing, said Gough, still one of the youngest athletes on the tour. I had raced on the junior circuit for two years, and that's more of a learning experience. To get bumped up to the senior team and make the Olympic team . . . I hadn't really set out to attain that goal.

I was still in shock as the Games were going on. Now, I know what to expect and I want to be a competitor instead of a participant.