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Photos: Canada finishes sixth in historic Whistler luge team relay

Embyr-Lee Susko earns first World Cup top 10 in singles

Amidst the backdrop of the Whistler Sliding Centre (WSC), seven Canadian lugers participated in a bit of history on Dec. 16: the first FIL World Cup team relay ever to feature women's doubles. Local standout Embyr-Lee Susko and her partner Beattie Podulsky anchored Canada to sixth place, combining with Trinity Ellis, Devin Wardrope and Cole Zajanski, and Theo Downey for a time of 2:50.366. 

Germany won the relay (2:48.665), followed by Austria (2:49.215) and the United States (2:49.311) in that order.

“The relay is always a super fun event, [especially] racing the relay at home,” said Ellis. “Embyr and Beattie are such a new pairing—at the beginning of the summer we were kind of worried that we wouldn't have a relay team. It’s super cool that things worked out the way they did.” 

“It's creating more space for women in sport, having men's and women's doubles,” Susko added. “I'm super happy to have done it with Beattie for our first ever Canadian team relay.” 

In past years, luge team relays consisted of only three sleds: a woman, a man, and a male doubles unit. The new format puts the women’s pair last: a novelty to athletes involved. 

“It was super weird,” admitted Zajanski in a press release. “We are not used to going after Trinity, but it is something we will get used to with practice and it was nice having the first relay with the women’s doubles.

“It’s been so long since we’ve had a relay, so it was nice to get the cobwebs off and hopefully we can just get better and better. Luge is such an individual sport so getting to celebrate with the team just means so much more to each of us.”

Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless became the first Canadian women to win a World Cup doubles luge medal last December in Park City, but with Corless retired and Nash focused on singles, the time is now for Susko and Podulsky to take the reins.

‘Whistler magic’ 

Earlier on Saturday, Susko paced all Canadian women with a ninth-place effort in singles (1:18.404). Ellis found herself 16th (1:18.569), and Nash was 18th (1:18.809), with Carolyn Maxwell bringing up the rear for Canada in 22nd (1:18.957).

“Stoked, that’s the prime word to use,” Susko gushed after the race. “I’m just so stoked. Those were two clean runs. Not my best start on the second run, but I’m just so happy with what I was able to put down today.” 

Victor Julia Taubitz led the podium sweep for Germany (1:18.066) with runner-up Anna Berreiter (1:18.177) and bronze medallist Merle Fraebel (1:18.179). 

Susko now has her first top-10 result in just her second career World Cup. The Whistlerite found herself in the red for much of her all-important second run, but discovered an extra gear in the final few metres of the track after Thunderbird Corner.

Then she stood in the leader’s box and watched as several other athletes lost speed in the very place she’d gained it, with home fans erupting each time. 

“It was a little bit of Whistler magic going on,” Susko said. “You can find some secret lines when you slide here a lot. I've been on this track 12 seasons now, so you can definitely find some speed where other nations might not be able to."

Meanwhile, Ellis is generally satisfied with her performance but thinks she might have more to give. 

“I had a really good first run. Second run, I had some mistakes and the speed just wasn't really there for me today, but it was okay,” said the Pembertonian. “I'm happy with what I was able to put down.” 

Nash, who like Susko hails from Whistler, is getting accustomed to life as a singles-only athlete.

“I definitely miss Natalie [Corless] and I miss our team dynamic, but honestly, I feel like the transition’s been going very well,” she said. “I've really been able to embrace sliding singles as a whole this season. I feel like sometimes in singles, it's easy now for me to think about it too much because I have less going on in my brain [compared to doubles]. It's definitely something I need to learn to manage.” 

Full results from the FIL World Cup’s 2023 stop in Whistler are available at