Lugers Slide Into Action

This week in Calgary the Canadian Luge Association unveiled its biggest World Cup team ever. Four men, three women and two doubles teams will try to make their mark in the final homestretch before the Olympic Winter Games begin for the 21st time.

The luge World Cup season kicks off this Friday and Saturday in Calgary, home to Canada Olympic Park. It is also hometown for the three veterans on the men’s teams: Jeff Christie, Sam Edney and Ian Cockerline. Christie is the elder statesman, entering his 10th season, whose top finish was 5th in a 2005 race. Edney and Cockerline are entering their 8th seasons.

All are 2006 Olympians. All continue to pursue the international podium, which has remained elusive in a sport historically dominated by European nations – notably Germany. Joining them in this pursuit is newcomer Brendan Hauptman of Kimberly, B.C.

“I’ve always thought of luge as tobogganing for adults, and while most people would think luge is German, I think it’s more Canadian as a result,” said Cockerline. “So I’ve always felt we should win at this sport as a matter of national pride.”

A dynamic women’s team is made of three: Regan Lauscher, Alex Gough and Meaghan Simister. Lauscher (Red Deer, Alta.) is on track for her third Olympic appearance, finishing 10th and 12 in 2006 and 2002. Now in her 13th season, she is the only Canadian ever to win a World Cup silver medal (in 2004). The seven-time Canadian champion will celebrate her 30th birthday next February.

Gough (Calgary) made waves at the 2009 World Championships by finishing 4th – a Canadian record. The 2006 Olympian finished in the top-10 five times in World Cups last season. Rounding out the women is Simister (Calgary), who has proved adept at throwing down some of the fastest starts on tracks around the world.

The brother tandem of Chris and Mike Moffat return for more doubles action. The Calgarians are two-time Olympians, doubles specialists, and they sled into the top-10 four times last season. They will be joined by fellow Calgarians Tristan Walker and Justin Smith, true up-and-comers who will compete on the senior circuit for the first time. They have won many junior international medals and will be aiming to qualify for the 2010 Games.

All lugers are taking advantage of an upgraded training facility at the Ice House in Canada Olympic Park. It features a refined start area that will allow the team to fine-tune their explosive starts – a critical moment in every race.