Tristan Walker and Justin Snith had no idea they had just made Canadian history.The 21-year-olds earned Canada’s best finish ever in doubles at a FIL Luge World Championships by placing fourth on Friday afternoon. In the evening race, they watched teammate Sam Edney set another Canadian best in men’s singles when he finished fifth.
“Best result in Canadian history? I didn’t even know that,” said a surprised Walker after being told of the accomplishment. “It’s not a bad feeling.”
Previously, Mike Moffat and Grant Albrecht’s sixth-place finish in Calgary 12 years ago was the best by a Canadian duo in a world championship race. Walker and Snith used two personal-best starts to help set the new mark.
With a two-run, combined time of one minute 13.346 seconds, Walker and Snith finished less than eight-hundredths of a second out of the bronze-medal position.
“I’m really happy with the result,” said Walker. “Even with the mistakes we made on the first run, there’s nothing we could have done more to push for that next spot. I think we slid pretty much as well as we could slide today.”
The Canadians had the third-fastest run of the second session, cleaning up some mistakes from their first trip down the track.
“We have to put more races together like this,” said Snith, whose best result with Walker on the World Cup circuit this winter is sixth. “We’ve struggled this year to put two runs together.”
Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt won their first world championship title, finishing in 1:12.842 to take the doubles gold. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken placed second to make it a one-two finish for Germany, while Austria’s Andreas and Wolfgang Linger earned bronze.
Wendl and Arlt were the World Cup leaders coming in, having won the season’s first five races. They erased the disappointment of last year world championships in Altenberg, Germany, where they missed the podium by just seven-thousandths of a second.
“Last year in Altenberg, we were fourth place on our home track, so we are really happy that it (went) so good this weekend,” said Wendl.
Edney’s seventh-place finish in Altenberg last year was Canada’s previous best men’s singles finish at worlds, but the 28-year-old laid down a spectacular second run that nearly pushed him into the medals.
“This is my home track and I feel like I know it better than I know myself sometimes,” said Edney. “My sliding was really on it today.”
Edney was agonizingly close to breaking up Germany’s sweep of the podium, as his two-run time of 1:36.769 left him only two-hundredths of a second behind third place.
“It feels really good to be that close to those guys,” said Edney. “To be right in there with the Germans, I knew that’s what I needed to do — pull some good starts to be there — and that’s kind of what I need to now focus on for the next year leading up to the (Olympic) Games.”
Olympic and defending world champ Felix Loch won gold, clocking in at 1:36.375, as German athletes captured the top four spots overall. Andi Langenhan finished second and Johannes Ludwig placed third.
“It’s really nice to drive here and I like the track,” said Loch, whose Olympic gold was also won in Whistler. “(I had) two good runs a and it’s great (for us) to take the first four places.”
Canadians John Fennell and Mitchel Malyk finished 24th and 25th, respectively.
The world championships conclude Saturday with women’s and team relay competition.
Calgary’s Alex Gough, a bronze medallist at the world championships in 2011, will be Canada’s best hope for a women’s medal. Gough will also join Edney, Walker and Snith for the relay, with the foursome hoping for another podium finish to follow their bronze medal at Altenberg last year.