Calgarian makes history with luge bronze
Calgarian Alex Gough will go down in history as the first Canadian-born athlete to win a medal at the luge world championships.
The 23-year-old National Sport School graduate captured bronze on the Olympic track in Cesana, Italy, on Saturday.
Miroslav Zajonc defected to Canada from the former Czechoslovakia and won gold at the world championships in 1983 in Lake Placid.
“This is the first Canadian medal in 28 years,” an ecstatic coach Wolfgang Staudinger said via cellphone. “The first homemade world championships medal.”
But not the last, Staudinger said.
“I compare it a little bit to Pierre Lueders,” he said. “Who knew about bobsled in Canada until Pierre Lueders came? They needed that one guy to do well for bobsled, and Pierre Lueders is the example.
“Pierre Lueders comes in and wins World Cups and world championship medals and suddenly people started to know bobsled. I think it will happen with luge too. This is a beginning.”
Gough is the poster child for the renaissance of feet-first sliding in this country. Earlier this season, she became only the fourth Canadian to win a World Cup bronze medal in Winterberg, Germany. Then she became the first Canadian to win multiple World Cup luge medals with a bronze in Park City, Utah. She added another bronze in Konigsee, Germany.
On Saturday, despite a shaky start to the second run, Gough posted a combined time of one minute, 34.314 seconds.
“It feels so good, and I’m absolutely pumped to finish third,” Gough said. “I’ve been sliding well all week, and I had the confidence that I knew I can be there on the podium.
“I love this track. It is fast and fun and this is just a very proud moment for me and the program.”
Tatjana Huefner, of Germany, won gold in a time of 1:33.969. Natalie Geisenberger, of Germany, seized silver in 1:34.243.
Gough finished fourth at the 2009 world championships in Lake Placid.
“I am so excited for our sport and what this means to all of us,” Gough said. “A lot of people have worked very hard to get me to this point.”
And to think this all came about because her mom, Zan Aycock, wanted her teenage daughter to keep busy on school nights and weekends during the long Calgary winter.
“She signed me up for a recruitment camp and dropped me off at Canada Olympic Park for a weekend,” Gough said. “I got to try the sport, and I really liked it. They invited me back to join the program and I guess the rest is kind of history.”
But how far will it go?
“A couple of years ago, I was asked what was special about Alex,” Staudinger recalled. “Then, I said Alex is a rare diamond that needs to be polished.
“The diamond got shaped over the past few years to the point it started to shine. But we are not done with her yet. There are still a lot of raw corners on that diamond, and there’s still room to improve.”
Making Canadian sporting history is a solid start.
The next Olympics are slated for 2014 in Sochi, Russia.