Thompson triumphant in Watles 

Sports briefs: Skeleton athletes medal; Watts sixth in junior return

click to enlarge IMAGE SUBMITTED - HEADING FORWARD The Kees and Claire Memorial Hut, part of Phase 1 of the Spearhead Huts Project, is shown. Organizers recently launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign.
  • Image submitted
  • HEADING FORWARD The Kees and Claire Memorial Hut, part of Phase 1 of the Spearhead Huts Project, is shown. Organizers recently launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign.

Marielle Thompson extended her lead in the chase for her third FIS Crystal Globe in Watles, Italy on the weekend.

Thompson scored the win in the second of two races, getting out to a quick advantage in the final and holding it all the way down to knock off Switzerland's Fanny Smith and France's Marielle Berger Sabbatel. Georgia Simmerling was eighth and Brittany Phelan placed 14th. The day prior, she took a fifth-place finish as Sweden's Sandra Naeslund scored the win. Canada's Georgia Simmerling was second and Germany's Heidi Zacher placed third. The other Canadian, Brittany Phelan, was right behind Thompson in sixth.

Thompson now has 620 points and nearly a 200-point cushion over Smith for the overall title to secure her in the driver's seat.

On the men's side, Brady Leman scored a pair of medals with two second-place finishes in Italy. In the first race, he was just behind Switzerland's Armin Niederer while holding off France's Jean Frederic Chapuis while in the second, Switzerland's Alex Fiva was the champion while Niederer dropped to third.

Other Canadians in the Jan. 14 race were: Kevin Drury (eighth), Whistler's Dave Duncan (12th), Chris Del Bosco (13th), Kris Mahler (28th) and Ian Deans (30th). In the Jan. 15 race, Del Bosco jumped to fifth while the other Canadians were: Drury (seventh), Deans (15th), Duncan (27th) and Mahler (28th).

Canadians capture skeleton medals

Canadian women struck not once but twice in International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) action in Winterberg, Germany.

In weekend action, both Elisabeth Vathje of Calgary and Mirela Rahneva of Ottawa hit the podium in the women's skeleton race. Vathje led the way in a snow-shortened race, taking the win with a one-run time of 58.02 seconds, one-tenth of a second ahead of Germany's Jacqueline Loelling. Rahneva slid into third, 0.12 seconds off the pace. It was the first time in four years that two Canadian skeleton athletes stood on the podium at the same time.

"I love coming to Winterberg and have always enjoyed this track. I had an inkling that I could win here today, even though Jacqueline (Loelling) is incredible on this track. We always have a great battle here," said Vathje, who also picked up the win at Whistler Sliding Centre earlier in the season, in a release.

North Vancouver's Jane Channell, meanwhile, put down the day's best start but slowed down the rest of the way en route to a 12th-place finish.

On the men's side, Barret Martineau was the top competitor, sliding into 13th while Dave Greszczyszyn placed 17th. Kevin Boyer did not qualify for a second run and took 25th. Latvian brothers Martins and Tomass Dukurs took the top two spots and Russian Alexander Tretiakov was third.

As for the bobsleigh element of the competition, on the women's side, the duo of Kaillie Humphries and Cynthia Appiah slid into fifth place. The result at the challenging Winterberg track snapped Humphries' streak of 12 consecutive races with a medal.

"I'm not the happiest with today. We pushed really well, the runs were pretty consistent and overall, I was happy with how I drove, but the sled just wasn't running so it is a bit frustrating," Humphries said in a release.

The Canadians' sled ended up 0.92 seconds back of winners Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones of the U.S. Germany's Mariama Jamanka and Annika Drazek took second and Americans Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans took third.

Two other Canadian sleds raced, with Alysia Rissling and Genevieve Thibault placing 11th and Christine de Bruin and Catherine Medeiros placing 18th.

In the four-man race, the Justin Kripps-helmed sled ended up in ninth, while Nick Poloniato piloted his sled into 19th. The other two entries, led by Chris Spring and Humphries, both failed to make finals after the first run. German sleds took the top two spots with Johannes Lochner and Nico Walther leading them, while Austria's Benjamin Maier was third.

In the two-man event, Kripps was the lone Canadian to make finals as he ended up taking an 18th-place finish with Jesse Lumsden. Poloniato and Derek Plug placed 22nd while Spring and Neville Wright were 23rd. Germans took the top two spots as the Francesco Friedrich-Thorsten Margis and Johannes Lochner-Joshua Bluhm combinations were the quickest, followed by the Latvian sled of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis.

Watts sixth in junior race

After a number of races on the senior circuit to start the season, Whistler's Reid Watts slid with some kids his own age on the weekend.

The luger took a sixth-place finish at the Junior World Cup race in Innsbruck, Austria on Jan. 15. Watts sat second after the first run, but struggled in his second and eventually found himself 0.837 seconds back of the pace set by Austrian Nico Glierscher.

Whistler's Veronica Ravenna, who represents Argentina, took 15th in the junior women's race.

In the FIL World Cup, most Canadians struggled in their race at Sigulda, Latvia.

The lone exception was Kim McRae, who took fifth in the women's race, 0.360 seconds behind winner Natalie Geisenberger of Germany. Tatjana Huefner, also of Germany, and Tatyana Ivanova of Russia rounded out the podium. The other Canadian entry, Alex Gough, was 13th.

Mitchel Malyk was the top Canuck in the men's race, taking 23rd, while Sam Edney was 29th. Russians Semen Pavlichenko and Roman Repilov captured the top two spots while Austria's Wolfgang Kindl placed third.

The doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith ended up in 18th. Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken snagged the win, followed by Latvians Oskars Gudramovics and Peteris Kalnins and Italians Ludwig Rieder and Patrick Rastner.

Alpine athletes struggle

Alpine Canada Alpin athletes had trouble putting together some solid times in combined racing in Wengen, Switzerland.

In the Jan. 13 alpine combined, Tyler Werry was the lone Canadian to finish, taking 35th-place, 6.62 seconds back of winner Niels Hintermann of Switzerland. Maxence Muzaton of France and Frederic Berthold of Austria took the other podium spots. Whistler's Broderick Thompson did not complete his first run.

As for the ladies' downhill in Altenmark-Zauchensee, Austria on Jan. 15, Valerie Grenier was the top Canadian in 29th, while Candace Crawford placed 51st. Austria's Christine Scheyer took the win while Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather was second and American Jacqueline Wiles ended up third.

Spearhead Huts fundraising continues on Indiegogo

The Spearhead Huts Society (SHS) is mounting a final push to get to $1.3 million.

That's the amount needed to ensure the first of three huts, located near Russet Lake, will be built this summer. With much of that cost already covered, the SHS has launched an Indiegogo campaign with the goal of raising $100,000.

As of Jan. 17, over $39,000 had been raised. The campaign ends on Feb. 1.

A donation of $20 will net a permanent "thank-you" from the campaign as part of an art piece in the first hut, while $40 will earn a night in the Kees and Claire Memorial Hut. The rewards, including gear, photographic prints and a guided backcountry tour, increase from there.

For more, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/whistler-spearhead-huts-project#.

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