Spring takes gold in two-man bobsled World Cup; Channell silver in women’s skeleton

Whistler Sliding Centre aims to draw a larger crowd for next season’s World Championships

It was a successful day of World Cup racing for bobsled pilot Chris Spring at the Whistler Sliding Centre last Friday (Nov. 24).
Spring, who spends much of his off-season in Whistler, and his brakeman, Edmonton’s Neville Wright, captured the gold medal in the men’s two-man race with a speedy two-run time of one minute 44.17 seconds.

Spring, who currently calls a GMC Savana van home (the van will stay put in Whistler for the remainder of the sliding season), previously won a World Cup gold in the two-man race on Whistler’s track in January 2016, while Friday evening’s win was Wright’s first time on top of a World Cup podium.

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“We’re stoked about it, but we have in the back of our mind, that… our end goal is winning medals and being Olympic champions in PyeongChang. We’re going to continue to strive to do that, with hopefully continuing to win podium medals on the way to the big show,” Spring said following the race. “I think getting used to winning is very important. That way when we go into the games, we’re not just hoping to win, we know that we can win and the result here today helps us do that.”

Spring wasn’t the only Canadian to stand atop the podium over the weekend, either. Only two-hundredths of a second behind him was Summerland, B.C.’s Justin Kripps, accompanied by Alex Kopacz.

In the women’s race, veteran pilot and two-time Olympic gold medallist Kaillie Humphries and brakewoman Melissa Lotholz capped off the day with another World Cup gold, which also meant Humphries remains undefeated at the local track. Earlier in the day, North Vancouver’s Jane Channell earned a silver medal in the women’s skeleton event — her first podium finish since the 2015-2016 season.

The second-place result “means so much,” said Channell. “Especially at home — my home track, my very first track — it means the world to me.”

Team Spring followed up the gold-medal win with a 13th place finish in the next day’s four-man race, while Kripps slid to fourth place to become the fastest Canadian sled of the day.

The impressive list of Canadian results, “is always great to see,” said Whistler Sliding Centre’s managing director Tracy Seitz. “Especially with Jane, the local Vancouver athlete, learning how to slide on our track and pulling in a medal, that was great too.”

Seitz estimates the track saw just over 1,000 spectators come out to take in some of the high-speed action over the course of the two-day World Cup event. He’s hoping to see a larger crowd show up when the Sliding Centre hosts the IBSF World Championships in 2019.

“We had about 1,000 people less than what we saw last year, so it was a little disheartening that way,” he said. “I think there are obviously a lot of things we need to do to get people up there, and we definitely want to solve that issue for the World Championships next year. It’s going to be a huge event.”

Seitz offers a special thank you to the nearly 40 volunteers who spent their weekend at the track, as well as the team of 22 volunteer race officials. “They do an amazing job and without them we couldn’t have this race… They were there from the early hours of the morning to the late hours of the night. It was a huge grind for them, and we really appreciate that.”

While the Sliding Centre may be finished hosting international races for the season, that doesn’t mean action at the track is slowing down. It will continue to host provincial bobsleigh, skeleton and luge races throughout the winter, as well as the Canada Cup youth luge race in January. The track opens for public programming Dec. 16. They’ll be operating seven days a week until April.

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