After years of work, the Canadian Luge Team is finally on the map.
Last season Alex Gough made Canadian and international history several times over. She was the first non-German luger to win a World Cup event since 1997, the first Canadian to podium or win a World Cup event, and the first Canadian to win a medal at the world championships. She finished the 2010-2011 season with three World Cup bronze medals, a World Cup gold medal and a bronze in the world championships.
For national team Head Coach Wolfgang Staudinger, who was recruited from the dominant German program, Gough's results were big for the program.
"Once you get an achievement like that which has never been in the past, it's very motivating for everyone else because they can see that it's doable - they can see that there's no magic involved," he said. "They know that it all comes down to hard work, putting in the labour, working hard with the coaches, working hard in training, and then one day it will all come together.
"What happened with Alex was a great thing, but it didn't happen over one year or even a few years. It was a process over four or five years to build up to this level. That she would come through so strong nobody could have known, but it was very good to see."
While luge hasn't been a big sport for Canada in the past, Staudinger said that Gough is a household name is countries like Germany who do follow the sport. The team regularly gets media requests from Europe and especially Germany who want to know what's happening.
"It wasn't that Alex just did the one race, it was what she achieved over the season building up to the win to finish the season. That put us on the map," he said.
Overall, Staudinger said the goal this season is continue improving. He said the team is performing slightly better in training this year while focusing more on the technical skills of the sport by getting in a high volume of runs in Calgary - mostly on the concrete over the summer - and at the Whistler Sliding Centre, which has had ice in since early October.
Staudinger said the program has been in place since 2007, and the system is starting to evolve as the athletes improve their skills.
"The goal is to move up from what we did last year and perform at the same level on the women's end with Alex and Arianne (Jones), with Jones moving up, and to hopefully raise the bar higher for the guys so they can build on their results. For Sam (Edney) that includes a couple top 10 results and a top six from last season. It's very possible. We also have a few young guys (in doubles luge) in Tristan (Walker) and Justin (Snith), and we can get into the top 10 with these guys.
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