The European tracks proved to generally be a rough ride for Whistler's lugers.
But even in the face of a little consternation overseas, local athletes have laid claim to the first-ever FIL Crystal Globes won by Whistler Sliding Centre athletes.
Pemberton's Adam Shippit had a sizeable advantage over the field after sweeping the three North American races. In Europe, Shippit's highest result was a seventh-place finish in Oberhof, Germany, but the points he earned there proved to be the clincher. German Lucas Geyer didn't participate in the North American portion of the schedule, but swept the European tour to finish second. American Eljiah Pedriani, who had an outside shot at catching Shippit, did not participate in the World Cup closer in Winterberg, Germany over the weekend and ended up finishing third.
"It really feels good knowing that you worked so hard for something and you accomplished it and you know where you're at," he said.
Reached in Konigssee, Germany, where the lugers are training in advance of the Canadian Youth Championships later this month, Shippit said he was glad to take home the title despite finishing near the back of the pack in his final two outings. In Winterberg, he was a solid ninth heading into his second run, but admitted to over-thinking his second run to drop all the way to 36th.
Shippit explained he had some difficulty digesting the new tracks, but now that he's expanded his horizons, has a base of confidence from which he can leap as he progresses in his sliding.
"In Europe, with the new tracks, it wasn't really what I would have wanted for results," he said. "The other races, I had a lot of problems on the track that made it hard for me to go fast. It was just a lack of knowing the track and knowing the environment.
"A lot of technique came into play, a lot of different corner combinations where some were tricky, others more simple."
He explained with his home track being such a challenging one to master, it's also helped him develop a mindset where every track is tough, something he's acknowledged has been tough to shed when he needs to take a more aggressive approach to "ignore (his) tendencies and just slide."
"In Whistler, we have a more complex track, but here it's simple," he said. "You had to just almost forget everything you've learned in Whistler and learn a whole new different type of sliding."
Whistler Sliding Centre's three other lugers finished within nine points of one another, with Matt Riddle, Reid Watts and Squamish's Nicky Klimchuk-Brown taking the fourth, fifth and sixth overall positions respectively. Riddle finished just 14 points back of Pedriani. Riddle and Watts each had two podium finishes in the three North American races to bolster their scores in the early-going, while Klimchuk-Brown finished in the top 10 at all three of those races.
Riddle/Watts take doubles title
Riddle and Watts didn't come home empty-handed, however, snagging the Youth A Doubles title despite not making it past the qualifying stage in Winterberg. The duo had little room for error with the hard-charging Calgary pair of Evan Wildman and Heath Karpyshyn breathing down their necks, but Wildman and Karpyshyn did not finish the race and collected no points in their pursuit, giving Riddle and Watts the title in their first year of doubles competition.
"We thought we may have lost it. We had a really tough time in Winterberg because it's a really hard track for doubles," Watts said. "There are some parts of the track that are really, really technical and others aren't hard at all to balance it out."
Riddle said it was "a little nerve-wracking" knowing their fate was out of their hands, but felt some sympathy toward his fellow Canadians with how they ended their season.
"It's hard to explain. They're your teammates and you want them to do well. They came out there to do their best," Riddle said. "If they come out here and they can slide this track and we can't, it should be fair that they earned what they earned.
"It's just unfortunate that on that particular run, it wasn't a good run."
Riddle noted the sled he and Watts use is built for speed, but was susceptible to crashing on the challenging German track, while Karpyshyn and Wildman ride a sled that's a bit slower and easier to handle, which could have been a major advantage with the Whistlerites vulnerable in the standings.
"The first three sessions, Reid and I couldn't make it around one corner without crashing," Riddle recalled. "We made it through that corner, but we still had trouble with the rest of the track. It was pretty challenging."
Though he's happy to be coming home with a Crystal Globe, Riddle isn't planning to rest on his laurels, as he'll enter the offseason with an aim to become more flexible to add precision to his runs.
"On the doubles sled, you've got to reach over more and I could definitely be more flexible," he said. "You can be out of sync here and there. This summer, (the focus is) get stronger and get more flexible."
Though struggling through the doubles competition, Watts fared much better in singles action, finishing as the top Canadian in the men's division at the race with a fourth-place showing. He was 0.419 seconds back of winner Lucas Geyer and explained at this point, his approach is generally better suited to a singles sled.
"For me, on the bottom of the singles sled, I can feel pretty much every single bit of G-force," Watts explained. "It helps me feel a lot without having to see everything.
"That really helps me out on the singles sled."
Riddle also ended his singles season with a bang, posting the fifth-best second run to shoot up from 30th to 17th. After a season with some highs and lows, he was happy to finish it off in the way he did.
"It's a funny way to end the singles circuit," he said. "When you're in 30th, you can't really expect to place well in the race, so at that point, I was just like 'Last run I'm going to have on this track, go crazy, don't over-focus.'"
Watts said he's grateful for the support he's received over the course of the season to help him make the progression he's made.
Youth A women just off the podium
It was a solid performance for Youth A women in their final race of the year.
Veronica Ravenna posted a fourth-place finish while Nicole Pidperyhora was just behind her in fifth.
Pidperyhora ended up eighth in the overall standings while Ravenna, who missed the first half of the season due to injury, shot up to finish 15th.
Fellow Canadian Kyla Graham notched an eighth-place finish to wrap up the season's silver medal. Brooke Apshkrum didn't finish in Winterberg, but ended the season in fourth place.
In the junior women's division, Pemberton's Jenna Spencer slid to a seventh-place showing in Winterberg to align with her seventh-place finish overall to end the year as the top Canadian. Calgary's Rachel Klassen was 11th in Winterberg to wrap up the season in 10th place.
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