It didn’t take long for Germany and Canada to get back on the podium in the World Cup luge team relay.
The Germans reasserted their dominance over the event Saturday at the Whistler Sliding Centre after a surprising sixth-place finish last weekend on home soil, while their Canadian counterparts bounced back from a disqualification to finish 1-2 in the event that will be making its Olympic debut at the Sochi Games.
The German team of Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch, Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendl took gold in the continuous relay with a time of two minutes 03.791 seconds, just over four tenths of a second faster than the Calgary quartet of Alex Gough, Sam Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith.
“We’re behind the Germans. We’re not happy about that at all, but I think we’re slowly closing the gap,” said Edney, whose foursome finished with a time of 2:04.202. “We’re doing the right things. We’ve got to keep pushing. We know that they’re the guys to catch and they’re going to be the dominant force in Sochi.”
Austria finished third in 2:04.686 in frigid conditions at the track that hosted the event during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Earlier Saturday, Geisenberger won the women’s singles race — her fourth straight World Cup victory to open the season — ahead of Gough and German teammate Anke Wischnewski.
In the relay, each team consists of three sleds — a women’s single, men’s single and a doubles — that race consecutively for a combined time. Like the passing of a baton in a relay race, a slider hits a pad at the conclusion of their run to open the gate at the top of the track.
Canada picked up a World Cup silver two weeks ago in Igls, Austria, but was disqualified last weekend in Winterberg, Germany, when Snith and Walker left the starting gate too soon.
“With the false start we had last week, it definitely rattled us a little bit but this week was really good,” said Walker, who along with Snith finished fourth in Friday’s doubles race. “You would rather have it happen (last week) than in February. Now it’s something that’s on our minds and we can focus on it.”
Canada, which has two World Cup victories in the team relay all-time, also finished second at last year’s world championship in Whistler before capturing a World Cup bronze on the Sochi Olympic track.
The Germans, meanwhile, won last season’s world championship and the Austrian World Cup race earlier this season, but finished sixth last weekend when a Geisenberger miscue cost them.
There would be no such mistakes this weekend, as Germany won six of 12 medals, including all four golds.
“It was for me, for us, a perfect weekend,” said Loch, who won the men’s singles race on Friday.
Geisenberger was battling an illness but still managed to win Saturday’s women’s singles race with a two-run time of 1:13.412, just 0.133 seconds ahead of Gough.
“My second run wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be,” said Gough, who finished in 1:13.545. “I had a few little skids here and there and (it) could have been a little bit better. I put it together and had two good, consistent runs and I had the performance I wanted.
“It definitely confirms that what we’re doing in training and what we’re doing off the track and all of that is working.”
Gough added a silver to her trophy case alongside 10 other World Cup medals — two of them gold — and two third-place finishes in world championships, including last year in Whistler.
Gough was fourth last week in Winterberg and won bronze in the first World Cup race of the season in Lillehammer, Norway, three weeks ago.
Geisenberger won gold in women’s singles at last season’s world championship after taking bronze at the 2010 Olympics.
“My sled is good. My start is good,” said Geisenberger, who holds the track record. “The line is nearly perfect.”
Gough, who will be among the Canadians looking to win the country’s first-ever Olympic luge medal in February, said Geisenberger has set the bar extremely high.
“She’s just on right now. She’s doing so well and she’s sliding really well,” said Gough. “I’m just going to keep chasing and keep trying to catch her.
“Always hoping to be on the top (of the podium) but I’m definitely happy with the performance that I had and the result that I produced.”
Notes: Wischnewski clocked in at 1:13.622 for third in the women’s singles race. Kimberley McRae, Arianne Jones, Jordan Smith, also all from Calgary, finished 11th, 14th and 17th, respectively. ... Wendl and Arlt won Friday’s doubles race. ... Edney was sixth in Friday’s men’s singles. ... Park City, Utah, will host the second of two North American stops on the World Cup luge schedule next week.
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