At just 18 and 19 years old, respectively, Whistler’s Natalie Corless and Pemberton’s Trinity Ellis will be among the three women representing Canada in luge at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Growing up in Pemberton, Ellis first got a taste of luge during a class field trip to the Whistler Sliding Centre in Grade 6. For the self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, the speed at which she was able to fly down the track on a sled, even the first time she tried the sport, was enough for her to sign up for the sliding program the following year.
Similarly, Corless, who was living in Calgary at the time, got her first exposure to the sport through a summer camp activity at about 11 years old. Like Ellis, she was immediately hooked by the speed, but also by the luge community as a whole.
“It was probably mostly just how unique it was at the beginning. It was something so cool and so different, and within the sport it’s a really small community of athletes, so you just get to form such a connection with your teammates, and with athletes of the other nations,” said Corless.
“So in one aspect, it was just a super-duper exciting sport. I got to go so fast, which I loved. But on the other side, it was also just such an awesome community that I was able to join.”
A few years after she got her start, Corless’ father had a job opportunity in B.C., so the family made the move west. Luckily, they settled in the one other place in Canada—and one of just 17 places in the world—where a luge career is an actual possibility for young athletes.
Ellis and Corless have been training and sliding together in Whistler ever since. Being just one year apart in age, the early careers of both sliders have looked extremely similar, even if Ellis has been a small step ahead so far with slightly better finishes and an extra year and a half of World Cup experience under her belt.
So when this season first got underway, Corless was just excited to have taken the next step to the Canadian National Team and for the opportunity to compete on the World Cup circuit, while Ellis had her eyes set on the bigger goal of making it to the Olympics.
“Going into the season, I was fairly confident. I knew if everything went well that I could do it for sure. And then the two weeks of team selections in [Sigulda, Latvia] really kind of pushed me back a little bit. I didn’t have the best results and was struggling a bit,” said Ellis.
“But luckily, I was able to kind of pull through from there, and then once we started racing and you go to World Cup after World Cup, I feel like I kind of fell into my groove a bit and I knew it was definitely looking good for me being the top Canadian by a fair amount. That put me in a more comfortable spot for sure.”
For Corless, on the other hand, being named to the Olympic team in her first World Cup season was much less expected. In fact, it all came down to one of the very last World Cup stops before the Games in Sigulda earlier this month.
After qualifying for the race, Corless ended up crashing and not finishing, leaving her wondering if the points she missed were going to be what cost her that third spot on the team.
Sitting in suspense for three days after the event, unsure of the outcome her mistake caused, the announcement came at a team meeting in Oberhof, Germany, that Canada would officially have a third women’s spot at the Olympics.
“At that moment, I was trying so hard not to cry. I was looking around at teammates with so much excitement. Because at that moment, I knew I had one [of the spots]. It really hit hard when the announcement was official. I sent it into our family group chat with all caps: ‘I’M GOING TO THE FREAKING OLYMPICS!’ and a lot of emojis,” she said.
“I’m thrilled. It’s something that I didn’t think was going to happen this year, especially after a bit of a rocky start to the season. It has been such a long season, and now to have this amazing experience at the end—even though I’m not going to be pining for a medal at these games, I still get to walk away with so much experience that I can use in my future in every aspect of my life.”
Despite being neck and neck for much of their early careers, Ellis said there is a teammates-first-competitors-second approach to the Canadian luge team, and being able to experience the Games for the first time together is something both sliders hold dear to their hearts.
“This season, we’ve definitely become really close. And so getting to go through this whole learning process with someone that I can relate closely with definitely makes things easier, and in some ways, makes it a lot more fun because you get to do it with a friend, which is always nice,” said Corless.
“I have definitely learned a lot from Trinity. She has already done a few seasons on the circuit, and so she was able to show me the ropes and helped me deal with some of the challenges that I was going through. And now we’re both taking this brand new step, which is going to be super exciting.”
When Ellis and Corless hit the track in a couple days’ time for their first Olympic runs, both women are in the same boat—they aren’t expecting to be competing for the podium just yet, but hope to use this as a stepping-stone for a potentially long and fruitful Olympic career.
“It’s definitely something that’s always in my mind, knowing that luge can offer such long careers that aren’t really peaking until you’re kind of mid-20s, that these Olympics are going to be so valuable for me, especially going into the next Olympics and already having that experience,” said Ellis. “And maybe in four years, I’ll be more competitive and vying for results and stuff. So yeah, I’m just really grateful for the opportunity and career growth. I’m sure it’ll help me out.”
Find more local Olympian profiles, along with complete coverage of the 2022 Games, at www.piquenewsmagazine.com/2022-winter-olympics.