Canadian Vathje takes skeleton win 

Fellow Canucks Rahneva sets new start record

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - Canadian Elisabeth Vathje celebrates her IBSF BMW World Cup win at Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 2.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • Canadian Elisabeth Vathje celebrates her IBSF BMW World Cup win at Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 2.

Elisabeth Vathje has had her struggles at Whistler Sliding Centre.

But those were all behind her Friday afternoon as the Calgarian slid to her second career win, besting German Jacqueline Loelling by 0.84 seconds. Tina Hermann, also of Germany rounded out the podium in third while Great Britain's Lizzie Yarnold, the 2014 Olympic champion, competing in her first race in 21 months, was just a hundredth of a second off the podium.

"I'm speechless. I've struggled on this track and this race was freeing," Vathje said. "I love this track now. It's so fun and I'm blessed to represent Canada.

"I flowed with the track. The ice speaks and it was speaking to me today."

Vathje had a strong 2014-15 season with three podium appearances, including a win at her home track in Calgary, but finished no higher than sixth last season. The 22-year-old hopes the win sets her up for a special campaign in 2016-17.

"Last year, I tried a science experiment and put some weight on (20 pounds) and it didn't work," she said, noting she's started meeting with a sports psychologist and feels different heading into the season. "Last year, I was like 'Oh, I'll get back on the podium,' like it'll just happen but no, you're setting goals and they're achievable every run."

Fellow Canadian Mirela Rahneva placed fifth, setting a new start record on her second run with a 4.79-second dash.

The Ottawa product, who briefly held the record before it was broken by Jane Channell, was thrilled with the result in her World Cup debut.

"It's mind-blowing. I knew I felt good off the block and I kept my shins tight," she said. "I knew I felt powerful and I just got on and hoped for the best.

"I like to get a good breath in before I go down and sometimes I struggle to catch that breath, that perfect breath before going down. Today, it all came together. I got that breath the first time the first run and right before the second run I, at the last minute, caught it and was like 'That's it, I know I'm going to have a good run with that breath.'"

It was a heartbreaking day for Jane Channell, the third Canadian on the day, as she placed 16th. Channell, who hails from North Vancouver, said she felt her runs were solid, but the times just weren't there in the end.

Channell, who missed some practice sessions with an illness earlier in the week, said some of the conditions had changed from Thursday to Friday as snow fell during the first run of competition.

"My runs felt good. They felt like they were the cleanest runs I had all week but the equipment wasn't there, so it's disappointing," she said. "It's always a gamble on race day for equipment with which runners you use and which you don't use but unfortunately this time, I lost the gamble."

IBSF action continues Friday night at 6 p.m. with men's two-man bobsleigh.

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