Canada’s luge athletes enjoyed their most successful World Cup in team history securing four medals, including a first-ever men’s singles gold courtesy of Samuel Edney.
The Canadian team had already thrilled the Calgary crowd in the third World Cup event of the season, winning three medals on Friday in doubles and the women’s run. Edney, in front of his hometown supporters, added to the spectacular World Cup weekend on Saturday with a winning time of 46.146.
Edney beat two-time Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany (46.255) and American Chris Mazdzer (46.263) to take the World Cup title on his home track, becoming the first Canadian to grab the top prize in a men’s singles race.
Edney was wearing a helmet designed by Richard Flamenco, an Alberta Children’s Hospital patient, who was with the Canadian hero at the finish. Flamenco suffers from epidermolysis bullosa, a connective tissue disease that causes blisters of the skin.
“This is a surreal moment,” Edney was quoted in a Canadian Luge Association release following his win. “There is a sense of calmness today I guess with this helmet. I can’t put it into words right now. It is pretty overwhelming and it is a pleasure to have Richard here with me.”
“As soon as I put that helmet on I just felt I had all this confidence and strength. It is hard to explain, but I think this experience shows there is so much more than just the results. It was such an inspirational moment for me to be here with Richard and to have it all come together like this is unbelievable.”
The locals got things underway in the doubles competition on Friday where Tristan Walker and Justin Snith grabbed bronze with a time of 1:28.014. Germans – as they often do in this sport – finished first and second with Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken (1:27806) beating Sochi 2014 Olympic gold medallists Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt (1:27.845).
“We were hoping coming off last season with our first podium, and to be so close at the Olympics, that we’d be pushing for the medals this year,” Walker said. Canada experienced three fourth place results in luge at Sochi, a difficult outcome for a tight-knit team that had an Olympic podium breakthrough in their sights.
Walker and Snith were the first Canadians to make a World Cup podium this season but on Friday night at Canada Olympic Park they wouldn’t be alone.
While the unstoppable German Olympic champion Natalie Geisenberger won her third straight World Cup race with a time of 1:33.860, she received stiff competition from a couple of Canadians who would later flank her on the women’s podium.
Alex Gough won silver in the women’s race just 0.058 seconds behind Geisenberger with 1:33.918. The Canadian jubilation doubled when Arianne Jones secured her first ever World Cup podium with a bronze medal-winning time of 1:34.274.
“I had a few nerves, but when it came down to racing and getting in the start handles all that falls away,” Gough said on Friday. She is currently balancing school with her athletic ambitions, missing the first two World Cup races, but saw Friday’s outcome as “positive reinforcement” of that decision. Gough finished second overall in World Cup standings for the 2013-14 season and is Canada’s most consistent podium threat in luge.
Like Gough, Jones is also from Calgary and explained how the home track suited her fine on Friday.
“I have had tonnes of runs here. I feel super comfortable here. I know how to drive these lines and I just tried to push my position to the furthest I could.”