Relay team takes gold on three-medal day for Canadian lugers at World Cup

By The Canadian Press
December 3, 2016 - 9:00am

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The Canadian relay team capped this country's best performance at a luge World Cup on Saturday with a surprising victory at Mount Van Hoevenberg, shortly after Kim McRae and Alex Gough won medals in the women's competition.

McRae, a Victoria native, teamed with Samuel Edney and fellow Calgarians Tristan Walker and Justin Snith to win gold in two minutes 34.627 seconds. Russia won silver in 2:34.671 and the host Americans were third in 2:34.815.

"It was a heck of day," said Canadian head coach Wolfgang Staudinger. "We proved today with starts, good sliding and consistency, you put the full package together and this is what happens. The team showed their potential today and I'm happy for them."

Germany's Tatjana Huefner won women's gold with a two-run time of 1:28.638. McRae won silver in 1:28.706 and Gough, from Calgary, won bronze in 1:28.703.

"This is something that our program has needed," said Edney, a veteran on the national team.

It was a remarkable showing by the Canadians, who have made steady progress in recent seasons.

"I am super pumped for the team," McRae said. "I put down the first run and just watched Sam and the doubles come behind me and we held on for the gold. "It is absolutely awesome for our program and was just an all around great day of racing."

In 2014, Edney was victorious in Calgary to become the first Canadian man to win a World Cup luge gold. Canada, which won relay gold at the final World Cup last season, has been a contender in the team event since its Olympic debut in 2014. 

Canadian lugers just missed the podium at the Sochi Games with three fourth-place results. Canada has never won an Olympic luge medal.

Gough is the most decorated luger in Canadian history — now with 22 World Cup medals — along with a pair of world championship medals in women's singles. She made the podium once last season with a bronze.

She said it was great to share the podium with her teammate.

"Kim is just one of the greatest people in the world that I know," Gough said. "We have great camaraderie. We have nice internal competition where we push each other to be better and we did that all week in training. To see us both be successful is awesome and great for the program."

It was the second career individual medal for McRae. She won bronze at Altenberg in 2014 and added a relay silver there last year. 

"A lot of pieces have come together over the last few weeks so it felt incredible to stand on the podium and to share it with Alex was unreal," said McRae. "She has been so important to me. She is a role model, someone I look up to and someone who I chase every day in training.

"To stand on the podium and see the Canadian flag on both sides of it brought tears to my eyes."

Huefner, meanwhile, has now won a World Cup on 13 different tracks, after never before finishing first on Lake Placid's ice. But she was the best Saturday, building up enough of a lead in her first run that even some minor trouble in her second trip down the track wasn't enough to keep her from the victory.

She threw both fists in the air when she crossed the finish line, then hugged a stream of coaches and teammates who came over to offer their congratulations. Lake Placid has never been her favourite track, evidenced by the 2007-08 season when Huefner won every World Cup race except the one at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

Huefner tied the career record for World Cup women's luge wins with her 37th victory on the circuit — pulling even with Sylke Otto of Germany for the all-time lead. Huefner also moved into the World Cup season points lead.

For as good a day as it was for Huefner and the Canadians on Saturday, it was a puzzler for the U.S.

Americans took gold, silver and bronze in this World Cup race last year — but got shut out in the women's event Saturday after some second-run stumbles.

Summer Britcher was second after one run, but she managed only a fourth-place finish to lead the USA Luge entrants in 1:28.758. That was one spot ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Natalie Geisenberger of Germany, who remained third on the all-time World Cup win list with 34.

Britcher has now been fourth or better in six of her last 13 World Cup starts, but her disappointment was obvious after Saturday's race.

"I think I need a little bit of perspective before I can really approach that," Britcher said.

Emily Sweeney, who has been slowed at the start of her runs by a wrist injury, was sixth for the U.S., and fellow American Erin Hamlin, who won a world championship at Lake Placid in 2009 and a World Cup there last season, skidded a bit midway through her second run and finished seventh.

"It's definitely disappointing," said Hamlin, who had a huge cheering contingent from her hometown of Remsen, New York, trackside. "I didn't have great training all week, so I can't really expect for a ton more today even though it is my home track. I had mistakes in both runs. It's so competitive now in our field so you have to be perfect."

Also for the U.S., Raychel Germaine was 10th.

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With files from The Associated Press.

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