Eight luge athletes have been nominated to Team Canada for PyeongChang 2018, more motivated than ever to make history.
Luge is one of three winter sports in which Canada has never won an Olympic medal. But the team has followed up three fourth-place finishes at Sochi 2014 with numerous world championship and World Cup medals.
The women’s team has two podium contenders in Alex Gough and Kim McRae. Both have won individual world championship medals and are in the midst of strong seasons on the World Cup circuit. Gough has won 25 World Cup medals in her career and is Canada’s most successful luge athlete ever. But it took her some time to become comfortable at the top.
“One of the biggest challenges I had to face was fighting my own sense of inadequacy,” she told Olympic.ca in June. “Finding that sense of self and self-belief and really know that I belonged in those groups of top contenders.”.
McRae said winning a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships was instrumental in building her confidence. “Getting a medal at Worlds was huge, just kind of proving to myself how far I’ve come in the past few years,” she said of being able to step onto the podium after being 10th in the first run. “I went for it and had one of the best runs of my life.”
After finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in Sochi, Gough and McRae are both threats to hit the podium in PyeongChang. They shared a podium this past weekend at the FIL World Cup in Lake Placid, winning silver and bronze at the final World Cup event that counted toward Olympic qualification.
The men’s luge team will be led by Sam Edney, who will be walking into his fourth Olympic Games in February.
“Anytime you go to the Olympics is a realization of a dream becoming a reality,” said Edney. “Having the opportunity to even pursue this dream, and have the chance to compete for a medal, is something few ever get to experience once, let alone four times, so I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to continue chasing this dream for Canada with so many supporters behind me.”
Just two weeks ago, Edney earned one of the best results of his career with a World Cup silver in men’s singles. At the end of last season, Edney won bronze at the World Cup held in PyeongChang. His success on the Olympic track has given Edney confidence when he goes back there in February.
“The track and I connected right away,” Edney said. “There was a feeling I had. There was a really tricky midsection which a lot of guys were having issues with and I think the way I approached that corner felt like it really worked for me and it made a big difference, one of the game changers for that race. I think if I can nail that I know I’m in a good spot to compete.”
“To represent Canada at another Olympics means everything to me,” said Walker. “Our goals are to pull the fastest starts we can and have the best runs that we can.”
In Sochi four years ago, Snith and Walker finished just 0.05 seconds away from the podium but since then have battled major injury problems. Snith trained and competed on a broken ankle for fourteen months before having surgery after the 2016 World Championships. He also had to manage a torn ligament in his knee.
“Just do what you can do, there’s a lot that’s uncontrollable and as a mental resilience exercise, just focus on what you can control and push forward from there,” Walker said of his team’s challenges. “Try to be the best you can be and sometimes when things like that are happening you have to just dig deep.”
Brooke Apshkrum and Reid Watts are the newcomers to this team. Both were on the podium at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games and will be competing at their first Olympic Winter Games in February. In their first years on the senior national team, Apshkrum and Watts are looking to gain experience and challenge the top contenders.
Mitchel Malyk is another returning team member from Sochi 2014. Malyk played a key role in the success of Canada’s luge team relay that claimed bronze at the 2016 World Championships. Canada narrowly missed the podium in this event in 2014 and is looking to medal in PyeongChang.