Luge Canada

Gough horns in on Germans' luge parade

From Monday's Globe and Mail

It was Germany’s 100th consecutive victory in women’s World Cup luge, but the results felt almost as rewarding for Alex Gough.

On a snowy, wintry Sunday in Winterberg, the host Germans ruled the track – yet again – while Calgary’s Gough stole some thunder of her own, finishing third and missing top spot by a scant 0.742 of a second. The bronze medal was only the fourth won by a Canadian luger on the World Cup tour, and what made Gough’s showing even more impressive was how she accomplished it.

Coming off a disappointing showing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, coming off another poor effort last week in Igls, Austria, Gough drew the 24th start number – dead last in the field – then slid her way to the podium in Winterberg behind Germany’s Tatjana Huefner and Natalie Geisenberger. (Huefner is the Olympic champion.)

The result, Gough said, was a reminder of what it takes to be successful over two spine-jarring runs.

“I was in a really focused mindset, having great starts, clean runs. I glanced at the time and I really didn’t read too much into it,” she said, recalling what had happened the week before. “In Igls, I got a little ahead of myself. I was thinking of the end result instead of thinking of the process. It was a good reminder to keep my head down and it left me humbled [with a 21st-place result].”

Gough competed at the 2006 Turin Olympics as the youngest slider in the crowd, a mere 18. It was viewed as a learning experience for the Vancouver Games and, having produced a Canadian-best fourth-place finish at the 2009 world championships, Gough looked primed for a breakthrough. Instead, the death of Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili in training and the decision to move the men’s and women’s starts farther down the track took Gough off her game.

She came in 18th.

“When we went back to Whistler [for training], I got to the ladies’ start and I bawled for 20 minutes,” Gough said. “The tragedy, moving [the start] down, all the unexpected stuff that went on, it was just a blur. By the end, it was, ‘Just get through it.’ I put everything from Whistler behind me.”

After opening the new season with her humbling in Igls, Gough arrived in Germany feeling sick. (“I had a bug and my stomach was queasy.”) It affected her training, but by Saturday she was feeling better and by Sunday she was making some of her rivals feel a little unsettled, too.

“It was a really crappy day in Winterberg,” Gough said with a laugh. “[Track officials] kind of quit sweeping the runway after the Germans had finished, of course. I made a small mistake on the second run, but I stayed calm and I think I made a few people nervous.”

Next up is a World Cup event at her home track, Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, where she’ll race Friday night, the men on Saturday and the men’s doubles on Sunday. The plan is to stick to the basics, work on her starts and not get too ahead of herself on race day.

“I’d gotten so close a few times I definitely wanted to keep pushing forward to see if I could get to that point [the podium],” she said. “I’m not going to let this result go to my head. I’m going to keep Igls in the back of my mind and be humble.”

Canada’s previous World Cup medal winners in luge are Marie-Claude Doyon (bronze, 1984), Tyler Seitz (bronze, 2002) and Regan Lauscher (silver, 2004).