It’s been a milestone campaign for Trinity Ellis, Caitlin Nash and Embyr-Lee Susko, but after a season full of twists and turns—pun fully intended—the Sea to Sky corridor’s top lugers have returned home.
Ellis is the only active Canadian national teamer with Olympic experience, having placed 14th last February in Beijing. The Pembertonian has consistently been a top-20 finisher on the World Cup circuit and aspires to start cracking the top 10 before long.
“This season really showed me a lot of things,” Ellis said. “I was able to be really consistent with all my results, which I think is a strength of mine that I’ve grown on from last season. What I need to work on this summer is to get stronger and get my start times down, and I think it’s within reach.”
Nash, along with her partner Natalie Corless, made history back on Dec. 17 by winning the first women’s doubles World Cup medal in Canadian history. The 19-year-olds came from behind that day in Park City, Utah to earn bronze in a field full of more experienced opponents. It was a full-circle moment for the duo, who in 2019 broke barriers as the first women to partake in a World Cup doubles race.
Corless returned to school for the back half of the season, as planned, while Nash kept banking World Cup experience as a singles athlete.
“Breaking onto the World Cup scene this year, I was just looking for consistency and to put down results in every race that I was proud of,” explained Nash. “I think I’ve finished 22nd in three or four races in a row, which is kind of as consistent as it gets, but obviously, I was looking to reach for a little bit more than that, so there’s a lot of work to be done.
“As for the bronze medal, that was a really exciting period, and something that we were happy to have achieved together, Natalie and I. Honestly, no words about that.”
At January’s end, Ellis and Nash helped represent Canada in the 2023 World Luge Championships. They placed 18th and 22nd, respectively, while Ellis also joined Dylan Morse, Devin Wardrope and Cole Zajanski in finishing 10th at the team competition on a demanding German track.
It was the most well-attended race that the young athletes had ever been to—far outstripping the COVID-afflicted Beijing Olympics—and it went a long way towards refining their skills.
“The growth that we had in those two weeks as a team [during World Championships] was enormous,” Nash said. “It was seriously shoulder-to-shoulder, and the stands were full … and we had people out there with banners cheering for Canada. More experience over the next few years is hopefully what we need to start moving up in the ranks.”
The next generation
Meanwhile, Susko made her senior FIL World Cup debut at 17 years old, placing 17th. The young Whistlerite ultimately wrapped up her season in style with three victories at the Canadian Luge Championships earlier in March—two of which came against senior-aged opponents like Ellis and Nash.
“I’ve been reaching at this next level [of my sport] for a couple of years now, and I finally am old enough to make the step,” Susko said. “It really meant a lot to come race with the big dogs at the World Cup, [but] I still definitely have some time in the juniors, which I’m excited to take advantage of.”
The Canadian luge team is a closely-knit group across all levels, from youth in the developmental program to more seasoned mainstays on the national “A” roster. Win or lose, sliders have each other’s backs.
“It’s an interesting dynamic in luge, because we’re so close as a team, but we’re also competing against our teammates all the time,” said Ellis. “But I think everyone on the team has really made an effort to be supportive of [their] teammates and be good sportsmen.”
Nash agrees wholeheartedly. “I think the internal competition within our team, specifically within the women right now, is what makes this group so strong,” she said. “Our ability to put aside our own individual emotions at the end of the race, regardless of the outcome, and support our friends is a quality that I’m really proud of.”
Ellis and Nash have been the youngest members of Team Canada for years. They’ve learned much from this country’s greatest luge generation: Alex Gough, Sam Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, who in 2018 won the first two Olympic luge medals in Canadian history. Those icons are now retired, and the torch has fallen to Ellis and Nash to help usher in a new renaissance of Canadian sliding.
They’re not ready to liken themselves to Gough and company just yet, but they are ready and willing to lead their teammates into the future—after some much needed R&R, that is.