Whistler Sliding Centre's Corless captures win 

Youth 'A' luger tops large field at St. Moritz

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Swiss miss Natalie Corless celebrates her youth 'A' World Cup gold medal won in St. Moritz on Jan. 17.
  • Photo submitted
  • Swiss miss Natalie Corless celebrates her youth 'A' World Cup gold medal won in St. Moritz on Jan. 17.

Whistler's Natalie Corless had no issues with a bigger stage in Switzerland.

The up-and-coming luger came up big, earning her first career win in FIL Junior World Cup action at St. Moritz, Switzerland on Jan. 17.

The 15-year-old bested a field of nearly 40 sleds to secure the youth 'A' singles victory and second podium finish of the season. Corless had the lead after the first run and followed it up with the second-best second run en route to edging runner-up Yulianna Tunytska of Ukraine by 0.141 seconds and Elizaveta Yurchenko of Russia by 0.339 seconds. The only other Canadian in the race, Ava Luscombe, placed seventh.

"It was definitely exciting," she said from Switzerland on Jan. 19. "There were a lot more people here in this race. I went in the first run and stayed on top as people went down. It was pretty surprising."

Corless explained she was glad to be in the lead at the midpoint, but it also put her in the position of having something to lose.

"I was excited, but at the same time, it adds a little bit of extra pressure. You're on the top and want to have another good run like you did the first time," she said.

Corless harnessed her speed well, and was the only slider in the competition to hit a top speed of over 121 kilometres per hour in both runs. She likened her approach in some ways to how she slides at her home track here in Whistler.

"There are a lot of different technical pieces the way the corners are, but it's another pretty quick track, so that part is pretty similar," she said. "We had to be a lot more flexible because the track here is meant for bobsleigh. We had to be ready for lots of schedule changes. The weather wasn't always great; it got pretty cold.

"If it gets really cold, the ice can get really hard, so you can have less grip on your sled."

Sliding with Caitlin Nash, Corless also won three youth 'A' doubles races in Park City, Utah, and Calgary in December. However, the fields were smaller, especially among European racers, so Corless was eager to gauge herself against that contingent on its home turf.

"You want to see the times of the other athletes and see how you compare. On race day, you get to see it all come together and see where you really fit in," she said.

Next up for Corless will be Junior World Championships at Igls, Austria before heading to Winterberg, Germany for another race and Königssee for a training week. She'll be hoping to podium again at the next World Cup race, but thrown in against older athletes at World Champs, will be looking to make some noise as a force to be reckoned with in coming years.

In youth 'A' men's singles action on Jan. 18, Colton Clarke and Devin Wardrope were the top Canadians in 12th and 13th, respectively. Whistler's Garrett Reid was 18th and Thomas Fassnridge took 19th. Latvia's Gints Berzins got past Russia's Pavel Repilov and Slovakia's Marian Skupek for the win.

In the youth 'A' doubles event on Jan. 17, Wardrope and Fassnridge put up an eighth-place finish. Russian sleds took the top two spots, with Mikhail Karnaukhov and Iurii Chirva earning the win over Viacheslav Popov and Anton Osipenko and Germany's Moritz Jaeger and Valentin Steudte.

At the junior level, Canadians Makena Hodgson and Sam Judson were ninth and 13th, respectively, in the women's race. Italy's Verena Hofer took the win and shared the podium with runner-up Elina Vitola of Latvia and Anna Berreiter of Germany. No Canadian men participated in the junior race, which was won by Germany's David Noesller over countryman Moritz Bollman and Italy's Lukas Gufler.

Canada finished in the middle of the road in the team event, with Hodgson, Clarke and the Wardrope-Fassnridge sled placing seventh of 12 entries. Germany bested Latvia and Italy for the crown.

Full results are available online at www.fil-luge.org.


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