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Canadian Luge Athletes Celebrate Medal Winning Saturday

Senior squad wins silver in team relay, young Whistler resident claims bronze in Austria

WHISTLER, B.C.—Canada’s luge athletes capped off a stellar weekend at the Luge World Cup in Whistler with a silver medal performance in the team relay.

Canada’s 24-year-old Alex Gough led the trio of Canadian sleds down the thrilling Whistler Sliding Centre track along with Sam Edney, 27, and a 20-year-old doubles tandem of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith. Having knocked off the Germans in the first World Cup team relay two weeks ago in Austria, the charging Canucks posted a second-place time of 2:19.001 in front of more than 1,000 fans at the Whistler Sliding Centre..

“We feed off the energy of one another and have a lot of fun in this event. You can tell at the start that we feel the team atmosphere through the whole race and that is something we all benefit from,” said Sam Edney, who matched his career-best on the World Cup with a fifth-place finish on Friday in men’s singles. “We have one of the best women in the world on our team and two young guys charging down the hill so we know that we can slid well and are good in this event.”

The Germans finished on top with a time of 2:18.773. Russia slid to the bronze step of the podium at 2:19.162.

Included in the 2014 Olympic line-up, the team competition is a one-run bomb race, which consists of one female sled, one male sled and one doubles team sled. Each athlete completes one run for a combined final time. Consistency amongst all three sliders is the key to success in the team event.

In an effort to make luge more exciting for the teams and spectators, the International Luge Federation introduced the relay-type system that had the athletes hitting a pad at the finish, which in turn opens the gate at the start for the next team member.

Prior to her medal winning run, Calgary’s Alex Gough slid just short of the podium in the women’s race on Saturday afternoon. The two-time Olympian, who is now regularly in the hunt for the medals each week, set a Canadian start record at 41.787 in her second trip down the Olympic track to finish fourth with a combined time of 1:23.685.

“The first start was off and that was kind of it, because the speed you don’t have at the start it is hard to get back down the track,” said Gough, who won a bronze medal in Igls, Austria last weekend. “I was close even with a mistake. It was definitely a good race for me and I slid really well so I was happy with that. I work hard in the summer to get faster at the start. I just couldn’t put it together today as nice as I would have liked in the first run. That’s racing.”

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger set a start record at 41.691 on the second push to win the gold with a two-run time of 1:23.439. Tatjana Hüfner settled for the silver with a time of 1:23.482, while Russia’s Tatiana Ivanova was third (1:23.606).

Gough has emerged as the nation’s most successful athlete over the last 12 months. After becoming the first Canadian ever to climb onto the World Cup luge podium multiple times with three third-place finishes last year, Gough became the first Canuck to win a World Championship medal when she was third in Cesana Italy. Her remarkable season continued when she became the first athlete in the world to beat the German women to win a World Cup in 105 straight races. Gough captured Canada’s first World Cup victory in Paramonovo, Russia.

If the Canadian results this week in Whistler aren’t proof enough of the significant impact the top track in the world is having on developing the nation’s best luge athletes into medal contenders, then the result in Igls, Austria by young Canuck, Jenna Spencer, is.

The 15-year-old Spencer, who grew up minutes away from the Whistler Sliding Centre in Pemberton, B.C., slid to the bronze medal in the youth division of her first Junior World Cup in Europe on Saturday morning.

Canada’s first legacy baby of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Spencer was inspired to try the sport four years ago as part of a growing youth program in Whistler when the track was constructed in her own backyard. This fall, Spencer became the first athlete on the West Coast to qualify for the national women’s youth team. The talented athlete had two fifths and a fourth-place finish in her opening three events this year in Park City, Utah and Calgary.

“It is absolutely amazing that Jenna won a medal in Europe and I am so happy for her,” said Calgary’s 21-year-old Arianne Jones, who finished 10th at 1:24.286 in the women’s race. “It just shows how incredible this track is for developing the future of our sport. It is a great challenge for them each week and is going to make our program very strong in the future.”

“Jenna’s result aids in the development of the high-performance culture being established here in Whistler,” said Walter Corey, high-performance director, Canadian Luge Association, who relocated to Whistler to grow the sport on Canada’s West Coast. “Jenna's accomplishment is an inspiration to our local athletes, and a shared reward with our community of volunteers and partners at the Canadian Sport Centre Pacific and B.C. Sport Alliance.”

Germany’s Karolin Von Schleinitz won the gold medal with a time of 1:20.932. Austria’s Nina Prock was second at 1:20.980.

Other Canadian finishers on Saturday included Calgarians Kim McRae in 11th (1 :24.293) and Dayna Clay in 16th (1:24.616).

Canada’s senior luge squad now heads to Calgary for a World Cup, December 12-17. The team will hold a media availability during its training session on December 14 from 8-10 a.m.

The Canadian Luge Association is a not-for-profit organization responsible for governing the sport of luge across the country. With the financial backing of its title sponsor, Fast Track Capital, along with the support from the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, the Canadian Luge Association safely recruits and develops the nation_s current and future high-performance luge athletes with the goal of regularly climbing onto the international podium. For more information on the Canadian Luge Association, please visit us at www.luge.ca on the Internet.

COMPLETE RESULTS: www.fil-luge.org
Top-Five Team Relay Results:
1. Germany, 2:18.773; 2. Canada, 2:19.001; 3. Russia, 2:19.162; 4. Austria, 2:19.202; 5. Italy, 2:19.821.

Women’s Top-Five and Canadian Results:
1.Natalie Geisenberger, GER, 1:23.439; 2. Tatjana Hüfner, GER, 1:23.482; 3. Tatiana Ivanova, RUS, 1:23.606; 4. Alex Gough, Calgary, CAN, 1:23.685; 5. Anke Wischnewski, GER, 1:23.840.
Other Canadian Results:
10. Arianne Jones, Calgary, 1:24.286; 11. Kim McRae, Calgary, 1:24.293; 16. Dayna Clay, Calgary, 1:24.616