Lugers look to relay for last medal chance 

Gough, McRae, Walker and Snith all post top-five finishes

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF CANADIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE - Watching and waiting Canadian lugers Kim McRae, left, and Alex Gough look on as the women's leaders take their final runs. Gough and McRae respectively were fourth and fifth.
  • photo Courtesy of Canadian Olympic Committee
  • Watching and waiting Canadian lugers Kim McRae, left, and Alex Gough look on as the women's leaders take their final runs. Gough and McRae respectively were fourth and fifth.

It's all coming down to the relay for Canada's lugers in Sochi if they hope to bring home the country's first medal in their sport.

Alex Gough delivered a new record finish for a Canadian luger at an Olympic Games, but it was just short of the women's podium, as the two-time World Cup winner had to settle for fourth when her race wrapped up Tuesday, Feb. 11. Kim McRae continued her strong finish to the season, finishing right behind Gough in fifth.

A day later, the Canadian doubles duo of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith slid to a fourth-place finish of their own.

Gough was expected to contend for a medal after finishing on the podium in six of nine events this year to rank No. 2 on the World Cup circuit. But it was a small mistake on her first run Monday, tapping the wall on an uphill section, that put her behind from the beginning of the four-run race.

Reigning world champion Natalie Geisenberger dominated the event, beating out runner-up and 2010 gold medallist Tatjana Hüfner by more than a full second. The Germans were joined by American slider Erin Hamlin on the podium.

Canada's Arianne Jones placed 13th.

Walker and Snith sat fourth after the first of two runs on Wednesday, Feb. 12, but were passed by the Sics brothers of Latvia on the second run. That would prove costly, as the Austrian team of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler fell out of the bronze medal position to last place when they lost control of their sled.

Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt gave Germany its third luge gold of the Games.

The previous Canadian record finish in luge at an Olympics came from Sam Edney in 2010, when he placed seventh in the men's race in Whistler. The three-time Olympian was unable to match that result in Sochi, as he sat 11th when his race concluded on Day 2. Germany's Felix Loch repeated his gold from 2010, while Russia's Albert Demchenko took silver and Italy's Armin Zoeggeler earned bronze, becoming the first athlete to win a medal at six consecutive Olympic Games. Canadians Mitchel Malyk and John Fennell were 26th and 27th, respectively.

If the Canadian crew of Walker, Snith, Edney and Gough can slide cleanly through Thursday's team relay, they will make a strong case for the country's first-ever Olympic luge medal. The race gets underway at 8:15 a.m. PST.

LE GUELLEC'S FIFTH LEADS NORDIC ATHLETES

Canada's Nordic athletes have been held off the podium so far, but they've been able to turn in some impressive performances.

In the debut of women's ski jumping, Atsuko Tanaka and Taylor Henrich finished 12th and 13th, respectively. Both were sitting in the top eight after one round but fell out of the top 10 after the final jump. Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes and Dusty Korek both posted top-40 finishes in the men's normal hill event that wrapped up Sunday.

In biathlon, Canada's Jean-Philippe Le Guellec got close to the medals in the men's 10 km sprint, shooting cleanly and placing fifth, finishing less than four seconds from bronze on Day 1. Nathan Smith finished 13th. Smith had the top Canadian result in the 12.5 km pursuit by finishing 11th on Monday.

Rosanna Crawford was the best Canuck in the women's 7.5 km sprint, finishing 25th on Sunday, while Zina Kocher was the fastest Canadian in the 10 km pursuit, also placing 25th, on Tuesday. Former Sea to Sky resident Megan Heinicke was 59th in the sprint but did not finish the pursuit.

In the women's skiathlon race that opened cross-country competition on Saturday, Emily Nishikawa led the Canadian contingent in 42nd place. Daria Gaiazova and Perianne Jones qualified for women's sprints on Tuesday but were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

In men's racing, Alex Harvey was 18th and Ivan Babikov finished 25th in Sunday's 30 km skiathlon. Harvey made the quarterfinals of the sprints on Tuesday but did not advance.

Speaking of Sochi, Olympic Winter Games

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