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New direction for Whistler luge team ahead of 2022 Olympics

Natalie Corless and Caitlin Nash are putting their doubles team on hold to focus on singles racing
Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless
Caitlyn Nash (left) and Natalie Corless pose for a picture after a luge World Championship event in Whistler in 2019.

With high school now behind them, Whistler’s dynamic luge team of Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless are putting all their energy and focus into qualifying for the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.

However, due to there not being a women’s doubles category at the upcoming Games, the two lugers will be taking a temporary hiatus from their doubles team to focus on improving their individual sliding skills.

“Unfortunately doubles won’t really be a possibility for us for these next Olympics but we do have a possible chance to qualify for singles, so we are really going to push for our singles sliding for the next little while until the Games,” said Corless.

“Over the summer it’s definitely going to be a long, hard push. I don’t have to focus on school anymore so I can put all of my effort into training really hard, getting really strong, getting really fast starts and then just hoping to travel with the senior team throughout the races leading up to the Games. And if I have good enough results, and I kind of stand my ground with the team, then I’m hoping I would be on the right track.”

According to both athletes, switching back and forth between competing in singles and doubles took a while to get used to at the start of their careers. And while they have the process figured out now, with no chance of competing in doubles in the Olympics, the extra distraction of training both disciplines just doesn’t make sense for the two, according to Nash.

“Well, I think it’s challenging, for sure, and that’s something people don’t understand where you have to go from working in a team element to working as an individual, and that’s something that I think we struggled with a little bit at the beginning of our doubles career,” she said.

“But it’s a balance, right? It’s just another thing we had to learn, to kind of prioritize doubles when we were riding as a doubles team, and then also being able to do that as a singles rider, and make sure that you give yourself time to slide singles and to kind of remove yourself from that doubles team aspect and remember that we are still competitors.”

After an essentially lost season last year being stuck in Whistler due to the pandemic and only being able to train and compete in a few local races, Corless and Nash made the move to Calgary for the summer to train with the national team at the city’s world-class facilities where they can focus on the specific details of their craft, like getting faster starts, to hopefully take them to the next level, according to Corless.

Despite the new direction for the team, the two still plan to come back to racing together eventually, once there are more high-level events available for women’s doubles teams.

“The doubles category has never specifically been a men’s category, it was just doubles but historically only men have ever competed. So when Caitlyn and I raced in our World Cup, we were the first-ever women to race in a senior doubles world cup. I feel like we kind of helped open up the possibility for a lot of people. I’m hoping we helped push it forward,” Corless said of making history at the International Luge Federation World Cup in Whistler in 2019.

“I think there will a be chance that we come back to doubles because they are trying to get it into the 2026 Games. So after this year I’m sure that we’ll come back to doing double duty so that we can kind of keep all our options open.”

But for now, they’re riding solo and working hard to see where they match up against a whole new class of athletes on the senior circuit, something Corless believes will be the biggest challenge to overcome this season.

But even though they are now competing against each other, the two lugers will always be a team and are ready to help push each other every step of the way towards their ultimate goal.

“It never feels like we are totally battling against each other because we are always pushing each other even when we are sliding singles,” said Corless. “There’s just always so much support between us so I think our doubles sliding has helped our singles sliding and made us a lot closer.”