Team Canada - Alex Gough - AltenbergPhoto: AP/Jens Meyer
Photo: AP/Jens Meyer

2017-18 Team Canada Winter Preview: Luge

It’s a drought that’s just waiting to be broken.

Luge is one of three winter sports in which Canada has never won an Olympic medal.

The current crop of Canadian feet-first sliders know they’ve got the goods to get on the podium, they just need to deliver when it counts, whether that be in their individual events or as a team.

Team Canada’s Alex Gough, Samuel Edney, Tristan Walker, and Justin Smith celebrate their bronze medal in the team relay at the Luge World Championships in Sigulda, Latvia, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov, F64 Photo Agency)

Who is competing?

Luge Canada named the following athletes to the national team:

Women’s singles: Alex Gough, Kim McRae, Brooke Apshkrum

Men’s singles: Sam Edney, Mitchel Malyk, Reid Watts

Doubles: Tristan Walker/Justin Snith 

When and where are they competing?

There are nine pre-Olympic stops on the FIL World Cup circuit. Six of those will include the team relay.

November 18-19, 2017 – Innsbruck, Austria (team relay)
November 25-26, 2017 – Winterberg, Germany
December 2-3, 2017 – Altenberg, Germany (team relay)
December 8-9, 2017 – Calgary, Alberta (team relay)
December 15-16, 2017 – Lake Placid, New York
January 6-7, 2018 – Königssee, Germany (team relay)
January 13-14, 2018 – Oberhof, Germany (team relay)
January 20-21, 2018 – Lillehammer, Norway
January 27-28, 2018 – Sigulda, Latvia (team relay)

Team Canada - Tristan Walker and Justin Snith

Team Canada’s Tristan Walker and Justin Snith compete during the doubles luge World Cup race in Altenberg, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

How do they qualify for PyeongChang 2018?

Results from the first five World Cup stops will count towards Olympic qualification. A total of 40 athletes will compete in the men’s singles with 30 in the women’s singles. The doubles event will feature 20 teams.

Going down the World Cup Ranking List on December 31, a country can earn up to three spots in each of the men’s and women’s singles events and up to two spots in the doubles event. If a country is qualified in all three, they are also eligible to enter the team relay.

To ensure the safety of all competitors, there are mandatory requirements for lugers to have enough race experience before they get to the Games. That could be through racing well in World Cup competitions or by doing a number of timed runs down the Olympic Sliding Centre track in PyeongChang.

What should we watch for?

The Canadian team came oh so close to winning the country’s first ever Olympic luge medals at Sochi 2014. Three fourth place finishes may have been heartbreaking but also provided much motivation for their next shot at an Olympic podium.

In the women’s singles event, Canada has not one, but two podium contenders in Alex Gough and Kim McRae, who were fourth and fifth, respectively, in Sochi. While Gough remains Canada’s most successful luger ever, McRae has been making great strides to catch her. Where Gough was once the only Canadian luger to win an individual world championship medal, McRae joined the club in 2017, taking bronze thanks to an incredible comeback.

Team Canada - Kimberley McRae

Team Canada’s Kimberley McRae competes in the women’s luge World Cup race on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Lake Placid, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Justin Snith and Tristan Walker have come so far since they were 18-year-old kids in their Olympic debuts at Vancouver 2010. The doubles duo has been an instrumental part of Canada’s four team relay medals at the world championships. Just 0.05 away from the doubles podium in Sochi, they’ve spent the last few years trying to deal with the emotional fallout of that as well as some untimely injuries. Now they’re ready for their results to trend upwards once again.

Sam Edney earned one of the most impressive results of his career towards the end of last season when he won bronze in the men’s singles World Cup at the Olympic Sliding Centre in PyeongChang. One of the oldest men on the circuit, he used his experience to his advantage on the new track, becoming instantly comfortable with a tricky section that gave trouble to so many others.

Team Canada’s Sam Edney (right) stands on the podium after winning bronze at the PyeongChang 2018 test event, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

With all of those veterans, is there room for the next generation to break through? Two who will certainly be trying are Brooke Apshkrum and Reid Watts. Both competed at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer where Apshkrum won gold in the girls’ singles and Watts took bronze in the boy’s singles.