After disqualification last weekend, Canada hoping to rebound in luge team relay | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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After disqualification last weekend, Canada hoping to rebound in luge team relay

WHISTLER, B.C. - Sam Edney could only look on last weekend when a critical error cost Canada a chance at back-to-back World Cup luge medals in the team relay event.

For an athlete in an historically individual sport, the ups and downs of team competition is something Edney has had to get used to.

"There's a lot of pressure on you, knowing if you're the guy that screws up in the team relay, it's on you," said Edney. "At the same time, you know you're a team and you're doing it together."

Edney had just followed up Alex Gough's run on the track in Winterberg, Germany, with a good singles time of his own to put Canada in the lead.

But the anchor leg was doomed when the doubles team of Justin Snith and Tristan Walker left the starting gate too soon, resulting in a disqualification.

"I compare it to false starting in track and field or speedskating or any of those reaction time sports," said Edney. "It's good it happened last weekend and not in February when we really want to show the world what we're made of."

With the luge team relay set to make its Olympic debut at the fast-approaching Sochi Games, the Calgary quartet of Edney, Gough, Snith and Walker will look to get back on track when the only Canadian stop on the World Cup calendar goes Friday and Saturday at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

"We have a lot of fun with it as a group," the 29-year-old Edney said of the relay. "We're pretty confident.

"We've got a good team and we've got a good chance every weekend we race."

The Canadians picked up a World Cup silver in Austria two weeks ago in the event that includes three sleds — a women's single, men's single and a doubles — that race consecutively for a combined time. They also took second at last year's world championship in Whistler before capturing a World Cup bronze on the track in Sochi that will host the Olympic event.

Like the passing of a baton in a relay race, a slider hits a pad at the conclusion their run to open the gate at the top of the track.

Last weekend in Winterberg, Snith and Walker jumped the gun.

"It's better that we learn from it now and make sure it doesn't ever happen again," said Snith. "We know that mistake won't happen again.

"That's one of the positives."

With 12 Word Cup medals to her name — including two golds — to go along with two third-place finishes at the world championships since 2010, Gough, 26, said all four athletes appreciate the camaraderie that comes with the relay.

"We support each other and we have success or we don't, as a team," said Gough, who took third in women's singles in the first World Cup event of the season. "It's a lot of fun. We have a great time racing it."

Edney and Gough both added participating in the relay has helped them in the singles competition.

"I noticed I was racing a lot different in the team relay," said Edney. "It was just more of a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere going into the event, knowing if I slide to my full potential I'm going to be quick as opposed to being over-motivated and over-stimulated."

Added Gough: "It takes some of the stress off me to just sit in the handles and know we're part of a group."

And while the Canadians are always in the mix for a podium finish in singles, doubles and the relay, Germany remains the dominant force in luge.

So far this season, the Germans have 13 singles medals, five in doubles and one in the relay.

Snith, 23, said even though the task of unseating the European giants seems daunting, all he and Walker, 22, can do is race to their full potential.

The pair finished just off the podium in fourth at last year's world championship in Whistler.

"We have to be the best we can be, minimize our mistakes. They're just people. They're not machines," said Snith, who along with Walker wound up fifth in doubles last week in Winterberg. "(The Germans) will make mistakes every once in a while.

"If we have a good race and they make a mistake, then hopefully we can move ahead of them. I don't think we're extremely far off."

After the doubles race kicks off the event Friday, Gough will face a tough test of her own in women's singles later in the day. Germany's Natalie Geisenberger has been perfect so far this season with three straight victories.

"I try not to think about it too much," said Gough, who was 18th on the Whistler track at the 2010 Olympics but third at last year's world championship. "I just focus on myself and my preparation and having the best performance I can, knowing if I do, that's the only opportunity I have to really have a shot at it."

Edney, meanwhile, has finished sixth the last two weeks in men's singles, but takes to heart the advice of Canada's German coach, Wolfgang Staudinger.

"Wolfgang says it all the time, 'They cook with water as well.' They have screwups. They have days when they're not 100 per cent on and also they have days when they're very dominant," said Edney, who was fifth at Whistler last year. "It's a fun challenge and that's part of the pursuit, trying to catch them and hopefully beat them."

One of the days when the Germans weren't at their best was during last week's team relay when they finished sixth. That made Snith and Walker's miscue even more disappointing.

Having moved on from that mistake, Snith said the familiarity with the Whistler track could play into the hands of the hosts as Canada continues to work towards its first-ever Olympic luge medal.

"It's cold here this week. It'll make for some hard ice, which can be a little trickier," said Snith. "We've taken hundreds of runs down here, maybe even thousands, and the (other teams) that are here haven't had nearly as many.

"Hopefully we can use that to our advantage."

Notes: The men's singles race goes Saturday afternoon before the team relay in the evening. ... The World Cup season continues next week in Park City, Utah, before heading back to Europe.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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