Alex Gough gets first Canadian luge win, ends epic German streak
By Terry Bell, The Province
Take that Germany.
A year after the opening of the 2010 Olympic Games Calgary's Alex Gough, 23, became the first Canadian to ever win a World Cup luge race with a victory Saturday in Paramonova, Russia.
Also a year to the day since the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Komaritashvili during Olympic training at the Whistler Sliding Centre, Gough's victory ended a remarkable German World Cup winning streak that goes back to Dec. 6, 1997. They'd won 105 straight.
"This is absolutely fantastic. I still can't believe it," Gough, who had a two-run time of one minute, 33.536 seconds, said in a news release.
"I always knew that this winning streak would come to an end one day but I never thought that I would be the one to do it.
"The track is new for all of us," she said of the circuit that was built at the same time as the Whistler track. "There is no one who can claim a home advantage. I'm extremely happy."
The last non-German to win a World Cup race was Austria's Andrea Tagwerker on Nov. 29, 1997.
Germany's Carina Schwab was second Saturday in 1:33.914 and teammate Natalie Geisenberger third in 1:33.935. Canadian rookie Arianne Jones, 20, of Calgary finished a solid ninth in 1:34.748.
The Canadian team has been making steady strides since head coach Wolfgang Staudinger was hired three years ago.
"You can not even imagine what it was like around the finish line when a Canadian finally ended this streak," Staudinger, who coached and raced with the German program, said in a release.
"This is not just history in Canada but this is luge history in the world. We are very happy and will have to party as a team tonight."
This is the fifth medal of what's become a remarkable 2010-11 season for Gough. She was third at world championships two weeks ago and has three World Cup bronze medals to go with the gold.
"It has been an incredible year and I just feel like so much of the hard work over the last six years is really paying off," continued Gough, also a bright bulb off the course. She earned the Governor General's medal for the highest academic average when she graduated from the National Sports School in Calgary.
"This is huge and incredible for not only me but for our program in Canada. We have to keep building and growing from this."
Canada's doubles team -- Tristan Walker of Cochrane, Alta., and Calgary's Justin Smith -- finished 11th in 1:34.854. Austria's Andreas and Wolfgang Linger won in 1:33.189.
The team has benefitted from Own the Podium 2010 money. But finances are a struggle. Two years ago the program signed its first sponsor, Calgary's Fast Track Capital. The athletes put 'Team for Sale' decals on their helmets to attract attention.
But things are looking up. This year the program hired another German coach, Bernhard Glass.
"Staudie came in here three years ago knowing the system would work," said Gough. "This year we added Bernie and now we are all really starting to see things pay off."
"This was a long process and we stuck with it," said Staudinger.