At his third Olympic Games, Sam Edney demonstrates he has done the media circuit before. On a warm Tuesday in a press conference room down the road from the Sanki Sliding Centre, he sits closest to the podium, head of the table.
The 29-year-old is the clear leader of the team. And in Sochi, he is part of something Luge Canada has never seen before: multiple medal contention.
What a thrill it must be for someone who has been there from ground zero, “To know it has progressed from 10 years ago when we had nothing. We travelled with two coaches and a first aid kit, to grow to where we are now it’s a nice story. I’ve been able to see this team grow, we’ve had to battle through a lot on the way up to here.”
And ‘up here’ includes Alex Gough with medal hopes, plus the team relay’s Olympic debut with Edney and Co. very much in the podium conversation.
Out of the seven other athletes at the table, four have won World Cup medals. That’s a transformation since 2010. The team had taken their first track walk earlier in the day, something Edney made sure to share, “It’s always an exciting moment when you do your first track walk. I remember the first one I did in Torino, it’s a really exciting moment because you really start to realize, ‘Ok the next time I take my runs in here its for the Olympic Games,’ it’s a big moment in your sporting career,” he says.
There is also an evident cohesion with Canada’s lugers. Merciful, since they’ve been together on the road, away from their Alberta homes since December 28th. After the media had their fill, the group mingles casually, as one unit. Eight people isn’t an unsubstantial number, and yet they don’t break off. Maybe Edney has had a hand in this too.
John Fennell is one of the Olympic rookies, and at only 18 has had good guidance, “He coaches us in a lot of different ways, he’ll get us prepped for a track, he’ll teach us how our set-ups need to be, off the track in the weight room he’s always pushing us and he’s always someone you can talk to. Sam is the person everyone comes to. He’s a great leader,” said Fennell earlier this year.
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Edney doesn’t ignore himself amidst talk of team improvement, and this is fair, his personal elevation must be pointed out. At Vancouver 2010 he was a Canadian best-ever 7th, by last year’s World Championships he had pushed up to 5th.
He talks at length about being one of the best sliders in the world, and it’s true, his technical proficiency is only bettered by German start speed. Edney is meticulous in his evaluation of his own race, where it needs to change and what he needs to do.
What he doesn’t lack is drive, “We know we have a shot in the team relay, I’ve got that hunger for it, I had a hunger for a World Cup medal, I know that I’ve been so close. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been,” he says.
The first two heats of men’s luge begin Saturday, February 8th.