Canadian women win golds at WSC 

LaBerge, Rahneva tops in skeleton races

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - Canadian skeleton racer Jaclyn LaBerge emerges from the snow as she completes her second run in Intercontinental Cup action at Whistler Sliding Centre on Saturday. LaBerge won gold.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • Canadian skeleton racer Jaclyn LaBerge emerges from the snow as she completes her second run in Intercontinental Cup action at Whistler Sliding Centre on Saturday. LaBerge won gold.

Canadian women stole the skeleton show at Whistler Sliding Centre (WSC) on Saturday.

Calgary's Jaclyn LaBerge blazed through both heats with the top time to win gold in the FIBT Intercontinental Cup women's race, while Mirela Rahneva of Ottawa overcame a deficit of nearly two-tenths of a second to edge out American Lauren Salter in the FIBT North America Cup race.

LaBerge posted a combined time of one minute, 49.39 seconds to hold off Russia's Olga Potylitsina by 0.35 seconds. Brandon, Man.'s Cassie Hawrysh followed up Friday's silver with a bronze on Saturday, placing 0.41 seconds behind her teammate. Madison Charney, the other Canadian in the race, placed eighth.

"This race went really well. I was really relaxed today," said LaBerge, who was fourth on Friday. "Yesterday, the first run went well, but I fell back a bit. But today was a new day."

Rahneva, meanwhile, was 0.18 seconds behind Salter after the first heat, but posted the race's best single-run time of 56.36 seconds to finish with a combined 1:52.91, 0.30 seconds ahead of Salter. Canada took yet another medal with Grace Dafoe's bronze, 0.66 seconds off Rahneva's pace.

On the men's side, Russian Anton Batuev ran away with his second gold in as many days in the Intercontinental Cup race, holding a three-tenths of a second advantage over teammate Pavel Kulikov after the first heat. He built on it further in the second heat to eventually beat his countryman by 0.36 seconds with a combined 1:46.36. Canadian Paul Fraser repeated as the bronze medallist with a 1:47.28, holding former Whistler resident Patrick Rooney off the podium by just 0.03 seconds. Greg Rafter, the other Canadian, was 11th.

Lastly, West Sharkey, who trains at the WSC, put that knowledge to good use, earning a silver in the North America Cup men's race. Sharkey finished 1.22 seconds behind American Austin McCrary's 1:49.48. Sweden's Linus Ottosson warned the bronze, 1.38 seconds behind McCrary.

Canadians Ben Roberts, Taylor Purdy and Alex Hanssen finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

The six total medals gave Canada a total haul of 10 over the course of the two races.

The conditions were snowy for the Intercontinental Cup heats, held in the late morning and early afternoon, though crews worked diligently to keep the track clear. The precipitation subsided by the time the North America Cup races were ready to go.

LaBerge noted the track is only in the open up until the first turn, and is otherwise covered.

"The track crew did a really good job of keeping the grooves clean, so that was really good," LaBerge said. "I'm not the fastest starter in the field, but I managed to power through it. It's just focusing on what you can control and what you can't, and you can't control the snow."

The schedule for both circuits resumes in Calgary next weekend.

Speaking of Skeleton, Whistler Sliding Centre

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