Gough captures World Cup luge win 

Canadian leads charge at condensed Whistler event

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - EYES ON THE PRIZE Alex Gough stares down the track as she prepares for her run at the FIL World Cup race on Dec. 10.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • EYES ON THE PRIZE Alex Gough stares down the track as she prepares for her run at the FIL World Cup race on Dec. 10.

A few on-the-fly changes didn't affect Alex Gough in the slightest.

After taking a third-place finish in Lake Placid, N.Y. at the start of the month, the Calgary luger jumped up a couple spots to win the next FIL Viessmann World Cup race at Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 10.

The event was hampered by bad weather throughout the week, as the truck carrying the sleds was held up in transport by a prairie blizzard, cancelling training runs and eventually shortening the format to a one-run bomb down the track from the regular two-run combined time setup.

In her single run, Gough held off Germans Natalie Geisenberger — the defending Crystal Globe champion — and Tatjana Hufener by five hundredths of a second to earn the win in track-record fashion (38.796 seconds). Kim McRae, the other Canadian in the race, struggled in her run and placed 19th.

"I feel great. It was a bit of a crazy week with the delay and the shortened schedule and the one-run race, but by the time we got on the ice today, I was ready to start sliding. The track's in amazing condition and it was a great feeling just to be back on a sled and be sliding," the 29-year-old Gough said. "It was fantastic. I love sliding in Whistler most days and when it's in this kind of condition, it's just even better."

Gough acknowledged that the reduced training time served as a blessing in disguise, as she wouldn't have been at her best for much of it anyway.

"To be honest, it was kind of nice. We all got here and got sick, so it gave me about four days to get over my cold and feel healthy again. I felt great today and put it together," she said.

Gough noted that though there was perhaps a little more pressure with everything coming down to a single run, there's still little room for error even if the race was kept on its original schedule.

"In a two-run race format, I still approach each run as its own entity and take each run as it goes. It was just a normal warmup and routine into a race run and then I didn't have to go do it all over again," she said. "In terms of a race here, you have to put two good runs together so you always have to go into it looking for a great run on the first run and if we had a second run, it would have to be another great run to follow it up."

In men's action, American Tucker West took his second consecutive win, gaining speed over the course of the track to set a new record time of 50.109 seconds.

"I feel great. Today was a really unprecedented race. We took all our training runs today and then the race, so I didn't really know what to expect coming into today. I'm really just thrilled with how the race went," said West. "We go into each run trying to attack it and it's nice to know that once you're done, you're really done and that's your position."

Austrian Wolfgang Kindl, the night's final racer, slid into second while German Andi Langenhan took third. Canadian Sam Edney, who was the eighth racer to shoot down the track, held the lead for 11 sliders, when Italy's Dominik Fischnaller overtook him on the hot seat. Edney ultimately placed 12th. Mitchell Malyk was 23rd and Whistler's Reid Watts, 17, ended up in 26th.

"It was interesting for sure with the sled holdup in Manitoba because of the snow storm, leaving all of our training until today, only getting four runs today. I was lucky because most only got three," Watts said. "It was a little off, but that's something I have to adapt to. I didn't quite have the run I wanted today, but (I'll be) learning from there.

"(I would liked to have) relaxed a little bit more with the cold, hard ice instead of being so tense as I was today."

In the doubles race, the Canadian team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith ended up taking fifth, 0.186 seconds behind Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany. Fellow Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arit were second and Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler were third.

"It's a step in the right direction from where we've finished so far this year, but it's a little frustrating because any time you're within a tenth of a second of the podium, you think of what you could have done differently," Walker said. "But I don't think we left much out on the ice tonight."

"We may have thrown away a fourth place, but we'll take fifth," Snith added.

Canada's second sled of Whistler's Matt Riddle and Pemberton's Adam Shippit was 18th.

"It was fun. It was really good to come back to Whistler, especially since it's our home track and the ice was so great. Recently, we've been having a few ups and downs, so it was great to come back to our sled and find our own rhythm," Riddle said.

"We definitely had more confidence going in, from the first run we took this morning, we know the track in and out and it helped us prepare for the race knowing we had that sled advantage," Shippit said.

As part of the shortened schedule, the BMW team relay event was cancelled.

The World Cup schedule resumes this weekend in Park City, Utah.


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