Canada's Rahneva hopes skeleton gold, silver on Calgary track not her last - InfoNews

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Canada's Rahneva hopes skeleton gold, silver on Calgary track not her last

Germany's Tina Hermann, centre, celebrates her victory with second place finisher Canada's Mirela Rahneva, left, and third place finisher Great Britain's Laura Deas following the women's World Cup skeleton event in Calgary, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
February 23, 2019 - 4:48 PM

CALGARY - Mirela Rahneva felt more than medals were riding on her last skeleton races of the World Cup season.

The Canadian earned a silver medal in Saturday's season finale a day after winning gold on her home track in Calgary.

The track, built 33 years ago at Canada Olympic Park for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, was the reason Rahneva moved from Ottawa to Calgary five years ago.

But the home of Canada's bobsled, skeleton and luge teams for over three decades is in peril.

The refrigeration system scheduled for decommission next week and a planned $25-million renovation suddenly on hold, Rahneva raced Saturday hoping it wasn't her last on the vintage track.

"The Calgary track is in jeopardy of closing and it would be a huge disappointment to the whole Canadian program," Rahneva lamented while standing next to the barrel of the kreisel, which is a donut-shaped turn on the track.

"A lot of us have moved out here and this is a major hub. It's a city you can work in, go to school in, have a life and also slide. It would be really, really sad to lose that."

A Bulgarian emigrant who moved with her family to Canada in 1997, Rahneva finished second to winner Tina Hermann of Germany on Saturday.

The Germans dominated Saturday also winning gold in women's and men's two-man bobsled.

Pilot Francesco Friedrich capped an undefeated season in two-man with his eighth World Cup victory.

He and brakeman Thorsten Margis tied with Canada's Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz for Olympic gold last year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"We took into the season what we learned last year with the win at the Olympic Games and we did great preparation in the fall season," Friedrich said.

"We did every week a great job I think, the whole team, and that's the thing you need to reach this."

Kripps, from Summerland, B.C., and brake Ryan Sommer of White Rock, B.C., took silver behind the Germans Saturday.

"I was really happy with Ryan. I hadn't raced with him in two-man yet on the World Cup," Kripps said.

"Friedrich is pretty hard to beat. We really wanted to kind of disrupt his streak and stop his undefeated win streak this year, but I'm really proud of Friedrich and Margis.

"I'm good friends with those guys obviously. We tied at the Olympics for gold and we share that bond now. We were pretty happy to get a silver medal on our home track."

Kripps will attempt to drive Canada to a second straight four-man gold Sunday after a win last week in Lake Placid, N.Y. The last men's skeleton race of the season is also Sunday.

German women Mariama Jamanka and Annika Drazek clinched the overall women's bobsled season crown with their victory. Edmonton's Alysia Rissling and Toronto's Cynthia Serwaah were the top Canadians in seventh.

The world championship in Whistler, B.C., opens Friday on the track built for the 2010 Winter Games.

The provincial and federal governments have committed a combined $17 million to the Calgary track renovation, which includes replacing the refrigeration unit and removing track so luge and bobsled share a start line instead of having separate entries.

WinSport, which oversees COP operations, is feeling financially squeezed between producing the remaining money for the project as well as increasing costs to operate the whole park, according to spokesperson Dale Oviatt.

A more efficient refrigeration unit and less track to maintain would reduce the annual operational cost of the track by roughly 20 per cent, but it would still operate at a loss, he said.

"I know the people who are in charge will do the right thing or they'll make it work," Rahneva said. "It would be a huge disappointment to lose this track."

Canada's Elisabeth Maier led after the first women's skeleton run Saturday only to drop to fourth after taking bronze Friday.

The Calgary native started sliding at the relatively early age of 14 because the track was "in her back yard."

"I sure hope it's not my last race because Calgary is home, born and raised," Maier said.

Hermann and Britain's Laura Deas vaulted from fourth and seventh after their first runs to gold and bronze respectively on their second passes.

Rahneva stayed second through both heats a day after winning what was a makeup World Cup replacing a race cancelled in Konigssee, Germany, in January because of too much snow.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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