Gough opens luge season on podium 

Rest of Canadian team struggles on seldom-used Lillehammer track

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - Beginning with Bronze Alex Gough finished third at the luge World Cup opener in Norway.
  • File Photo
  • Beginning with Bronze Alex Gough finished third at the luge World Cup opener in Norway.

Most of the Canadian luge team struggled in the season's first World Cup race, but Alex Gough was the exception, returning to podium to begin her 2013-14 campaign.

Gough placed third in the women's race held Saturday, Nov. 16 at Lillehammer, Norway, earning the 12th World Cup medal of her career with a blistering second run on the track that hosted Olympic competition in 1994. Lillehammer has been used sparingly as a host for World Cup luge races, and Canada did not compete in 2009, the last time it held one.

"To start things off on a track where I'm not comfortable on, and I haven't been to in nine years, and to be in the medals is a huge confidence booster for me," said the 26-year-old, who was a junior slider the last time she raced in Norway, in a release. "The podium, or result, wasn't the most important thing today. I really wanted to just begin the season with decent starts and two solid runs, so it feels really good to have been able to do that."

Saturday's race saw a lot of movement in the standings after the opening run. Gough sat eighth after the first session, but posted the fourth-quickest second run to slide up into the bronze medal position. First-run leader Kate Hansen of the U.S. fell back to 12th, allowing Germany's Natalie Geisenberger to grab the gold and Russia's Tatiana Ivanova to place second.

"I started 23rd in the first run and the track started frosting over and was a bit bumpy so it was pretty slow," said Gough. "I had no expectations coming into today. The first race is always such an unknown because you train all summer and you don't know where you stand. But it was good today and I'm happy with the start to the season."

Gough's Canadian teammates had a difficult time in their first trips to Norway, as Kim McRae's 18th-place finish was the next-best Canadian result. Arianne Jones placed 21st and Jordan Smith was 23rd.

In doubles racing, the Canadian duo of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith had difficulty on the bottom section of the track after posting impressive starts, which is usually their weak point. Despite recording top-three start times on both of their runs Saturday, Walker and Snith ended up in 19th place. Germany's Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt earned the victory by less than .02 seconds over countrymen Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken.

"Not the way I wanted to start the season but it was our first time here and it's always hard to learn a new track in 11 runs," Walker said in a post to his Twitter account. "On a more positive note, we pulled personal best (third and second)-place starts today."

Men's team veteran Sam Edney also had a tough time in his race on Sunday, finishing 20th. Italy's Dominik Fischnaller set a new track record en route to victory, beating out reigning Olympic and world champ Felix Loch, who was third, and German runner-up David Moller.

The World Cup tour continues with races at Igls, Austria, and Winterberg, Germany, before arriving at the Whistler Sliding Centre for competition on Dec. 6 and 7.

Speaking of Whistler Sliding Centre

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