Loch sets new speed record at sliding centre 

German team dominates luge, but Canadians continue to improve

click to enlarge On the Fast Track Lugers were a blur in last weekend’s FIL World Cup, with athletes setting new  speed records — over 153 km/h for both the track and the sport of luge. - Photo by Sarah Bourne, www.coastphoto.com
  • On the Fast Track Lugers were a blur in last weekend’s FIL World Cup, with athletes setting new speed records — over 153 km/h for both the track and the sport of luge. Photo by Sarah Bourne, www.coastphoto.com

Coming into this season, the Canadian luge team hoped to turn top-15 results from last year into top-10 results this year and to be able to contend for the podium in every category. The team accomplished that and more this past weekend at the Whistler Sliding Centre (WSC), which hosted a FIL World Cup to test the Olympic facilities.

Competitions on Friday and Saturday both sold out, with 3,000 tickets available each day. And spectators on Saturday got to see the course record fall.

Two weekends earlier a four-man bobsleigh team was clocked at 153.3 km/h, setting a new record for the Whistler track and the sport. The previous speed record at the Whistler Sliding Centre was set by a luge athlete.

Germany's Felix Loch reached 153.937 km/h on his second run Saturday to reclaim the record for luge athletes. Loch's speed was the highest ever recorded in luge, surpassing a record set by three-time Olympic champion Georg Hackl.

While Loch had the highest speed, his combined two-run time was only good enough for third place. Teammamte David Moller won the event, the last of the season. Italy's Armin Zoggeler was second.

The victory was Moller's first of the season, after recovering from a leg injury.

"So far the track at Calgary was my favourite track, but I think I've (got) to change to Whistler after the results last week at Calgary and this time at Whistler," said Moller.

"Nevertheless, I'm not the favourite for the Olympic Games, those are the defending champion Armin Zoggeler, and world champion Felix Loch."

The top Canadian in the men's race was Sam Edney in 12th place, just 0.386 seconds back of Moller. Jeff Christie was 13th and Ian Cockerline 21st.

Canada did better in Friday's men's doubles event with the Moffat brothers, Chris and Mike, in ninth place.

"This is a test event for us and it tells us the work that needs to be done over the next year," said Mike Moffat. "It all starts at the top (of the course). These guys don't make mistakes so if you aren't fast at the start it is tough to make time up down the track. We missed the first half of the season with Chris's (hand) injury, but we are going to use the summer now to build our strength and do our best to be better this time next year when it counts."

The doubles event was won by Andre Forschutz and Torsten Wustlich of Germany, followed closely by their teammates Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch. The Austrian team of Andreas and Wolfgang Linger was third.

On the women's side, Natalie Geisenberger led a German sweep of the Friday's women's event, followed by Tatjana Huefner and Anke Wischnewski.

Alex Gough, who has been Canada's top luger this season, placed seventh, just over half a second back of the leader.

"This has been a great year for me and shows me that I can do it," said Gough. "I have gained a lot of confidence this season and now, being so close to the podium, I am really hungry to get there. But I'm not getting ahead of myself and will be sure to work hard this summer."

Meagham Simister was 10th after ranking sixth after the first round. Regan Lauscher was 13th.

Organizers also held Nations Cup races around the World Cup event for FIS level athletes. Regan Lauscher and Meaghan Simister were second and fourth in the women's race, and Jeff Christie and Sam Edney were fifth and sixth for the men. The Moffat brothers won the men's doubles race.

The Canadians also used the race as a chance to troll for corporate sponsors. The athletes wore For Sale signs on their helmets to let viewers know that the team is still looking for a title sponsor for this season and next. For the Canadians, it might mean the difference in giving the German team a run for its money in 2010.

"The German government has been pumping millions of dollars into their program for years, and we have been so far behind," said Mike Moffat. "We have been able to play catch-up thanks to the great support from the Own The Podium program in Canada, and now hopefully a corporation will step forward and give us that final nudge we need to help close the gap."

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