Three veteran skeleton racers and a burgeoning teenage star will dive headfirst into the 2023-2024 IBSF World Cup season for Canada when it launches Nov. 17 in Beijing, China.
Olympians Mirela Rahneva, Jane Channell and Blake Enzie are welcoming the return of 19-year-old Hallie Clarke to the senior Canadian skeleton team. The trio of Canadian women will check in for eight World Cup races, while Enzie will suit up for six. Athletes from the developmental and athlete pool, including Whistler's Tirza Lara, will have an opportunity to challenge for the remaining quota spot throughout the campaign.
“The national skeleton program has created a strategic performance plan focused on delivering podium performances on the World Cup, while not losing sight of long-term athlete development, all while ensuring the health of our athletes in a supportive culture of excellence,” said head coach Joe Cecchini in a press release.
“Hallie, Jane, Mirela and Blake have proven they can deliver when it counts at all levels of their development pathway. It is our goal to work with our funding partners to ensure this group of athletes continue to have the support and tools they require to succeed in achieving their performance goals while continuing to foster the development of the next generation behind them.”
This year's storylines
Rahneva will seek redemption on the 2022 Olympic track after finishing fifth at the most recent Winter Games. The 35-year-old is coming off an accomplished season where she slid to her first-ever World Championship podium (a bronze). When all was said and done, Rahneva clinched a Crystal Globe for finishing third overall on the World Cup circuit for the third time.
Off ice, the Ottawa, Ont. native has joined bobsledder Cynthia Appiah as the new athlete representatives for Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS).
Jane Channell, Rahneva's running mate at the last two Winter Olympics, will also be on the prowl. One of the fastest starters on the planet, the 35-year-old multiple World Cup medallist delivered a season-best sixth place finish at last year's World Championships.
“We, the athletes, only see the results from the work, time and effort that goes on behind the scenes. The impact our coach, Joe Cecchini, has brought can now be seen and felt throughout the program: from our World Cup Team, all the way down to our first prospects in years who he has recruited this summer,” said Channell in a release. “Trusting the process and program is something we have all embraced with the betterment being seen and felt physically, mentally and emotionally with the addition of various support programs that were previously missing.”
Clarke, one of the most talented prospects in the sport, competed for the United States during her debut World Cup campaign last year, earning two silver medals and a top-10 result at World Championships.
“I’m incredibly grateful to wear the maple leaf again,” said Clarke, the reigning U20 Junior World Championship queen. “The Canadian program is evolving, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I think this is going to be an exciting season for all of us.”
Calgary’s Blake Enzie will lead Canadian men on the World Cup this year. Competing in just his second season on the elite circuit, the 22-year-old will continue building towards Milan-Cortina 2026 with a targeted competition schedule that will see him partaking on all international circuits.
Furthermore, the Maple Leaf's national development programs have received an infusion of new blood. David Park, Josip Brusic, Ryan Kuehn and Troy Wilson have made the developmental skeleton team, while Sebastien Regnier joins the NextGen unit.
Lara, meanwhile, finds herself in the national athlete pool alongside Grace Dafoe, Jordan Rwiyamilra, Kyle Donsberger, Mark Lynch, Jacob Coleman, Marc-Antoine Vignault and Mackenzie Adams.
Earlier this summer, BCS announced that Whistler Sliding Centre (WSC) mainstays Cecchini and Micaela Widmer would join Kevin Boyer in sharing coaching responsibilities throughout the athlete development pathway.