The Whistler Sliding Centre is once again playing host to a FIL-Luge World Cup event, with critical Olympic quota spots up for grabs for the world’s top sliders. Over 150 athletes from 29 nations will take part in four events this weekend — men’s singles, women’s singles, doubles and the team relay event that will make its Olympic debut in February.
The Canadian team is on a bit of a roll. Alex Gough won the 12th World Cup medal of her career, a bronze, at the season opener in Lillehammer, Norway. The following week in Igls, Austria, she fell back to seventh place overall, then finished just shy of a podium last weekend in Winterberg, Germany.
Sam Edney managed to tie his best ever World Cup finish in men’s luge with back-to-back sixth place finishes in Igls and Winterberg.
The doubles team of Justin Snith and Tristan Walker also posted its best World Cup finish ever in Winterberg, placing fifth.
But the team’s strongest event is the relay, winning a silver medal at Igls. The team is comprised of Gough, Edney and Snith/Walker.
“Silver was a huge day for us,” said Edney after the Igls relay. “Going into an Olympic year it’s nice to show ourselves we are still there, and knowing that we will still push together to get better each week, until the big race with the final goal being (the Olympics) in February.”
Canadian athletes are notorious for doing well in new Olympic events, but in the case of the team relay the rest of the world has had three years to catch up and yet the Canadian crew is still a regular on the podium.
They aren’t the fastest racers in the individual events, but they always combine for fast times as a team. “We trained all summer knowing teams would be putting lots of focus and pressure into the relay this year,” said Edney. “We did the same and wanted to come into this race showing the strength of our team and each sled that’s entered.”
Coming into Whistler, the team has home ice advantage. The luge squad was at the Whistler Sliding Centre in October for a training camp, and they have performed well here in the past. Last season, Gough won bronze and the relay team a silver medal at the Luge World Championships.
The men’s luge and doubles luge take place Friday (Dec. 6) from 3 to 8 p.m., with the women’s luge and team relay on Saturday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 per day, available online at www.whistler.com, or at the Whistler Visitor’s Centre. Children under six are free. Access to the event is via the Excalibur Gondola, getting off at Base II and walking to the venue.
Organizers are still seeking volunteers for the event. Visit www.whistlerslidingcentre.com.