Luge Canada

Canadian lugers back on track

Canadian lugers back on track

Sliders prepare for new season, World Cup race in Whistler


Eric MacKenzie


Things are looking a little different for the Canadian national luge team heading into the 2011-’12 season, which includes a stop in Whistler this year on the World Cup circuit.


The Canadian crew is coming off arguably its best winter in history on the strength of Alex Gough’s World Cup win and world championship bronze medal. But it’s also moving ahead without longtime veteran Jeff Christie, who retired in the offseason to open a brewery after a 16-year career.


“It’s different, especially for myself. I’ve slid with Jeff for 14 years, so he’s not only been a good competitor and teammate, but my best friend for a long time,” national team member Sam Edney said Thursday (Oct. 20) after a training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre, where the team has been preparing for the upcoming season for the past couple of weeks. “But we’ve got a small team, a pretty close team, and I think it’s going to be a fun year.”


With Brendan Hauptman still recovering from a crash suffered late last season and Christie gone, Edney will be the lone Canadian male on the World Cup circuit for at least the first half of the season. He said he knows his role with the team has changed.


“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m considered the leader of the team now, so it’s a new role that I have to embrace, but it’s something that I’m willing to do,” said Edney, 27. “Being the only guy that’s going to be traveling this first half… it gives me something to focus on, to make sure the team is meshing.”


Gough, meanwhile, enters the season with a new set of expectations after her breakout 2010-’11 campaign. Not only did the 24-year-old step on the podium five times, her World Cup win at Paramonovo, Russia was the first by a non-German woman in more than 13 years.


But the Calgary native said she isn’t heading into the upcoming season with a different game plan than last year.


“It’s definitely a little different, but it’s still the same idea of getting back into sliding,” said Gough. “Really, it’s the same approach. I’m not going into this season with bigger expectations than I had last year. It’s just to go out, do my best and see what happens.”


Added Gough: “(Last year) was a great season and I’m really proud of what I accomplished, but this is very much a sport where if you go in… looking for a particular result, you’re probably not going to achieve it. It becomes (a matter of) wanting it too bad… before taking care of the basics first.”


Arianne Jones will be looking to improve upon her rookie World Cup season, in which she placed the top 15 consistently and achieved one top-10 finish. The men’s doubles team of Justin Snith and Tristan Walker showed good progression last year as well, highlighted by an eighth-place showing at the world championships.


All five athletes should be in the field for the World Cup race hosted at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 9 and 10, the first major luge competition at the track since the Olympics. Whistler will also host the world championships in 2013.


“It’s nice to be back here training and to have the atmosphere of a race here again (coming up),” said Edney. “It’s not going to duplicate the feeling of the Olympics… but it’s a blast to be here and race in front of a home crowd.”


The International Luge Federation has announced that the Olympic start heights will be used for the World Cup race, as the men’s start remains closed. While that’s not ideal for athletes, said Edney, the Canadians will at least get their home track advantage back that was essentially lost during the Games, when the starts were changed just before competition began due to Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash.


“We hope they can change it up next year for world championships,” said Edney. “I’m just trying to embrace the fact that (the women’s start) is my men’s start for this year.


“It was big at the Olympics that they made the decision just a couple of hours before we raced. This is still our home track; we have an advantage here. Right now, I’m just trying to find a setup that’s going to run well here in Whistler to be as fast as possible when we come back here in December.”



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