Canada's Rahneva hopes skeleton medals on Calgary track not her last - InfoNews

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Canada's Rahneva hopes skeleton medals 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.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
February 24, 2019 - 7:00 AM

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

The Canadian earned a silver medal in the season finale Saturday less than 24 hours 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 in Calgary.

"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."

Canadians have won a combined eight Olympic medals in bobsled and skeleton since 1988, including four gold.

The luge team landed on the Olympic podium for the first time in 2018 with a relay silver and Alex Gough's bronze. Calgary is slated to host the 2021 world luge championships.

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

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

Elena Nikitina of Russia, who was fifth Saturday, won the overall women's World Cup title for 2018-19 ahead of Hermann in second and Rahneva in third.

Men's and women's bobsled was scheduled for later Saturday. A second men's skeleton race and four-man bobsled Sunday concludes the World Cup season.

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.

Canada's Elisabeth Maier led after the first 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.

"We want to save our track so badly because having two home tracks is amazing and the Germans have three. We need a track like this, where it's a bit of a starter's track.

"You learn to drive quietly and then you go to Whistler and you can drive a difficult track. Losing this is losing a lot for development and the finesse driving honestly."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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