Canadians round out luge worlds with a pair of podiums 

Alex Gough wins bronze in women's event; Canada second in team relay

click to enlarge Alex Gough (right) celebrates her bronze medal at the FIL Luge World Championships in Whistler on Saturday, the second championship bronze of her career.
  • Alex Gough (right) celebrates her bronze medal at the FIL Luge World Championships in Whistler on Saturday, the second championship bronze of her career.

Canadian coach Wolfgang Staudinger was worried that with the lower starting gates the Canadians wouldn't have any home ice advantage at the Whistler Sliding Centre for the FIL Luge World Championships, but the team came through for the hometown crowd.

The competition wrapped up on Saturday with a pair of medals, starting with Alex Gough's bronze medal in the women's individual event. She earned bronze medals in the first two events of the season but finished just off the podium in her next four starts.

"It feels really good, it's tough to be that close to a silver medal and not be there but I'm still really happy with my performance," she said.

Natalie Geisenberger of Germany took the championship title in 1:13.428, followed by teammate Tatjana Hufner in 1:13.534 and Gough in 1:13.546 - just 12 one-hundredths of a second back of silver.

Whistler Sliding Centre played host to a vocal crowd for the event, and up at the women's start Gough could hear cowbells - something she appreciated even if it did add to her nerves.

"I tried not to hear them but I could, and it was a great crowd, really loud and supportive, and I'm just happy to see everyone out."

The other Canadians also had good days with Kimberley McCrae placing seventh overall and Arianne Jones in eighth. Jones also placed third in the Under 23 age group.

Following the women's event, the athletes went back up to the top for the team relay event. Canada had its work cut out with the German team boasting all three world champions from this season - Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch and the tandem of Wendl Tobias and Arlt Tobias.

In the end the Germans were too fast with all of the athletes posting the fastest time on their leg of the relay. But the Canadians, who have two silver medals to their credit in the relay this season, had a good night with Gough and Sam Edney posting the second-fastest times of the night, and the doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith posting the fourth fastest team to earn the silver medal.

"It was a weekend of close, close results and we had a successful Saturday," said Edney. "Alex, I think, gave the three of us that encouragement that we deserve to be on the podium, and it just feels really good to be on there in front of this home crowd."

In terms of results, it was an historic finish for Canada with two World Championship medals, but although the team didn't win any medals on the first day of competition Friday was also historic with athletes making history in both the men's doubles and men's individual races.

In doubles, the tandem team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith had no idea they would make Canadian luge history with their fourth place result, and seemed genuinely surprised when reporters at the finish line pointed it out.

"It's not a bad feeling," observed Tristan Walker.

"Not too shabby!" agreed Justin Snith.

It was their own personal best in a doubles event; Canada's first World Championship Under 23 title; Canada's first fourth place finish in doubles at a World Championship and the the best Canadian result in any event at the World Cup, World Championship or Olympic level.

The previous best at a World Championship was a sixth place result in 2001. The following year the Canadian team of Chris Moffat and Eric Pothier were fifth at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

"On the first run we were a little sloppy on the bottom part of the course, but we cleaned it up in the second," said Walker. "I'm really happy with the result, even with the few mistakes we made there's nothing we could have done to slide better than today."

"This was one big step for us to get to that next level and make the podium," said Snith, vowing to work even harder in the future. "We've put in a lot of work on our starts, trained all summer (but) the Germans were still five one-hundredths faster than us at the start, and on a shorter course there's no way we could make that up."

The tandem of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were first overall with a two-run time of 1:12.842, followed by Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken in 1:13.042. Both teams are from Germany. Third went to Andreas Linger and Wolfgang Linger of Austria in 1:13:268 while Walker and Snith were just back of that mark in 1:13:346.

In the Under 23, the Italian team of Ludwig Rieder and Patrick Rastner were ahead of the Canadians after the first run, but hit a wall on their second run and dropped back a couple of places.

In the men's individual luge event, Canada's Sam Edney posted the best result of his career, and the best Canadian world championship result, with a fifth place finish - just over two one-hundreths of a second back of the podium and around four one-hundredths back of silver.

"What is four hundredths, I don't even know what that is," said Edney. "It feels really good to be finishing close to those guys, to be right in there with the Germans. But I knew that was what I needed to do, pull fast starts, and that's kind of what I need to be focusing on for the next year before the (2014 Olympic) Games."

Edney said the home track helped him post the best result of his career. "This is my home track and I feel I know it better than myself sometimes," he said.

"I feel really comfortable on the track here, there's a good vibe here always and I just feed of that energy, the energy of the town and the track."

The Canadian team has two more races this season, a World Cup at Lake Placid, New York, and an Olympic test event in Sochi Russia. After that the team members will have two weeks off before dryland training gets underway.

As for what it will take to bridge up to the Germans, the athletes know it's going to take a lot of work.

I think we need to keep working the way we are, we keep getting closer and closer," said Gough.

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