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Meet the Athletes: Alex Gough

The Globe and Mail
Posted Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:05 PM ET
www.ctvolympics.ca

Alex Gough of Calgary was 18 years old when she competed in luge at the 2006 Games in Turin. In 2008-09, she recorded seven top-10 finishes and placed fourth at the world championships, best ever for a Canadian.

Are you one of the younger people on the circuit?
Oh, yes! I was the second youngest in 2006. But a few people have come up since then. I gained a lot of experience in the last three years but I was definitely the wide-eyed little kid.

It's a high-risk sport, isn't it?
It is. I mean, it's not as crazy as downhill skiing, with a huge field of play where you can crash and tumble forever, and break things. We're in cotton netting. We're in a very contained environment.

How'd you get into the sport?
My mom heard about [my friend] was doing luge, going to the track all the time. She found a camp and signed me up for it, got me out of the house for the weekend. I got to try the luge, and it was the best. And they called me back and had me join the program.

How old were you then?
Thirteen.

What kind of mother would send her daughter into a luge? Didn't she like you?
She did, actually, she does [laughs]. I know she didn't expect it to end up at this level, or anywhere near this. And you know I wasn't like "I'm going to go to the Olympics." That's wasn't really my dream. It sort of developed over time as I progressed in the sport.

So you have a luge mom?
Yeah, yeah, and she's gotten very involved in it. She's an official. And she's a cowgirl.

And she's not frightened when you race?
No, I think she is. Some of my teammates were with my parents and she was a bit of a wreck just between us.

What happened at the world championships? Why did you make that breakthrough?
I'd missed all of the season prior to that, and ... the first race of the season I just really got overwhelmed with being back. I just kind of re-grouped and I don't know if it sort of clicked or whatever. Everyone makes mistakes and I was just trying to [find] a formula where sort of the way I ride is feeling good. I get out there and take it as it happens, and I know where I want to be on the track, but I can't tell you what I do on the track sometimes. Like, coaches will be like "What did you do here and here?" and I'm like, "I don't know."

You keep calling yourself some sort of nerd. Why?
Cause I am! I was always a smartie. In school, I graduated top of my class.

That's good!
I know it's good! I'm very happy about it, thank you. I went to school and I was very quiet and shy and I didn't have a lot of friends, and I spent the entire time with my nose stuck in a book, and I'd get in trouble in class because I'd be reading a book on my desk, but I'd already done the lesson, so. ...

What kind of books?
In general a lot of fantasy. I read purely for the escapism. But I've read plenty of things, including some historical fiction, a book this year that I really, really enjoyed The Book of Mirrors.

Twilight?
Yeah! I devoured those books. I've read them several times and I love them.

Do you mind if I ask you about the lip ring? How long have you had it?
I got it when I was 18. I don't really notice it any more. It's a nervous habit; I play with it quite a bit.

Has it become your signature?
I wouldn't say that. It's just part of my style, maybe. Not that I really have a style.

Well you have to have some style. And, um, you call yourself a speed junkie, is that fair?
That's fair. I mean really, I use luge for a rush, and being on the track and just doing the sport for the sport itself.

You're a renaissance person. You play classical guitar?
I've definitely taken it up again. I had the same teacher from when I was four years old to when I was eighteen. I think it's just a creative outlet for me. It's something I do and it's very relaxing for sure, in the pressure times.

It's not rock, heavy metal guitar?
No it's not. It's funny, I actually listen to classical. I listen to everything from country to rap. And indie.

How long do you want to luge?
I plan to keep luging until 2014, and then re-evaluate.