The Canadian luge team had another historic weekend when returning to World Cup competition, highlighted by the country's first-ever medal in doubles competition.
With the Olympics now just a month away, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith made a statement by sliding into third place at Königssee, Germany, on Saturday, Jan. 4 for their first top-three result in a major international race.
Alex Gough, meanwhile, captured a bronze medal in women's competition, and the three medallists joined Sam Edney to claim a team relay silver medal the following day. Canada had never before claimed three World Cup medals from one event.
Walker and Snith had racked up their share of fourth-place finishes over the past two seasons, including one during last year's world championships in Whistler. But the Canadian duo took advantage of a track they're comfortable on, posting a two-run time of one minute, 40.709 seconds to grab the last spot on the podium. The German teams of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, and Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken finished one-two.
"It's awesome and especially to do it here in Königssee which is a home-away-from-home for us," said Walker. "We spend a lot of time here and it is always the first place we go to after Christmas. I had a feeling when we'd finally do it that it would either be here or in Canada."
Walker and Snith sat fourth after one run but posted a second-run time that moved them ahead of Austria's Peter Penz and Georg Fischler.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Snith. "It's just huge for us to get a podium before Sochi."
Gough similarly moved up from her first-run ranking to reach the podium, as she was fifth after the opening heat. Her bronze was the 15th World Cup medal of her career. Germany's Natalie Geisenberger won, remaining undefeated this season, and countrywoman Tatjana Hufner took second.
Kim McRae, who will also be on Canada's team in Sochi, notched the best World Cup finish of her career by placing fifth. Arianne Jones rounded out the Canadian results by placing 12th.
The German relay squad captured gold again on Sunday but the Canadian team had nearly a two-tenths advantage over Italy.
Edney also had a solid outing in men's singles competition, placing fifth to match his career-best finish.
The World Cup schedule continues in Germany this weekend at Oberhof.
KINGSBURY ON TOP AGAIN
Mikael Kingsbury and Alex Bilodeau completed another one-two finish when the World Cup moguls tour stopped in Calgary on Saturday.
Kingsbury, the reigning world champ, and Bilodeau, the 2010 Olympic gold medallist, were also first and second at the season's first race in Finland last month. U.S. skier Patrick Dineen placed third.
Whistler's Eddie Hicks, who finished 11th, said it's been amazing to watch his Canadian teammates dominate the circuit as the Olympics approach.
"They're pretty much untouchable," said Hicks. "What they're doing, at the level they're skiing at, is pretty incredible."
Hicks, meanwhile, was pleased with his finish as he shows a return to form. Having missed nearly all of last season to injury, the 25-year-old reached his first final since the 2011-12 season and improved upon his 13th-place qualification result.
"I definitely skied a much better run in finals and though my scores may not have reflected it, I gave myself a very good chance at a strong finish," said Hicks. "If I can do that week in, week out, the results should come."
Canada also took two medals in the women's event, as Justine Dufour-Lapointe skied to victory and sister, Chloe, grabbed bronze. U.S. skier Hannah Kearney picked up the silver.
The team will keep busy this week with back-to-back races on Jan. 9 and 11 at Deer Valley, Utah.
JANYK MISSES TOP 30
Whistler's Mike Janyk had a tough outing this week as his World Cup slalom schedule continued.
Janyk placed 36th in the race held Monday, Jan. 6 at Bormio, Italy, and did not qualify for a second run. No Canadians were among the top 30 skiers advancing.
The 31-year-old was three-tenths back of the group that moved on to the second run. Janyk had finished in the top 30 of six consecutive World Cup or world championship races before Monday's result.
In women's slalom competition from Bormio on Sunday, Canada's Marie-Michele Gagnon placed fifth — her third top-five finish of the season and her seventh top-10 result. She now sits third in the women's slalom standings and eighth in the overall rankings.
In other alpine news, 2010 Olympic medallist Lindsey Vonn announced this week that she will not compete in Sochi. She will undergo surgery on her injured knee and focus on being ready for the 2015 world championships taking place near her Colorado home.
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