Canada’s luge team is peaking at the right time for the Winter Olympics.
The sliders finished last season on a high with medals and top-five results at the world championship in Whistler, B.C.
They intend to carry that momentum into their World Cup races this season and the Winter Games in February.
The team departs next week for training at the 2014 Olympic venue in Sochi, Russia, and then opens the World Cup season Nov. 13-17 in Lillehammer, Norway.
“We’re all confident in our abilities right now,” Calgary slider Sam Edney said Tuesday. “It’s a matter of can we continue that and continue where we left off last year? I know everyone wants to and in the mindset they’re able to.”
Edney and the men’s doubles team of Tristan Walker of Cochrane, Alta., and Calgary’s Justin Snith posted the best results of their careers to conclude the 2012-13 season.
Edney was fifth in men’s singles at the world championship to cap a season of five top-10 results. Walker and Snith were fourth and placed fourth in two other World Cup races, including an Olympic test event in Sochi.
They give Canada medal threats in addition to Alex Gough in women’s singles. Since 2010, the Calgarian has won 11 World Cup medals, including two gold, and took bronze in Whistler for her second career world championship medal in women’s singles.
The rise up the ranks of Edney and the doubles team is significant because of the team relay event that will makes its Olympic debut in Sochi. Gough, Edney, Walker and Snith combined to win a world silver medal in Whistler.
A Canadian has never won an Olympic medal in luge. This team hopes to change that in 2014.
“We finished last season on a bit of a high,” said Walter Corey, the Canadian team’s high-performance director. “Our focus is obviously to ride that momentum, but we’d be silly to assume it’s going to continue. Every one else in the world is training hard as well.
“We know we have to be able to compete week in and week out come the Sochi Olympics in order to be successful.”
Calgarians Arianne Jones, Kim McCrae and Jordan Smith will race women’s singles with Gough. John Fennell and Mitchel Malyk, both 18-year-old rookies from Calgary, join Edney in men’s singles. Snith and Walker will be the lone doubles entry.
While Canada has athletes that can compete with the best in the world, the team isn’t as deep as Germany, for example. Keeping the Canadian athletes injury-free this season is paramount, Corey said.
Canada’s World Cup luge team was introduced to children at a Calgary elementary school not far from their sliding track Tuesday. The event coincided with the launch of a children’s book “Lucy Tries Luge” written by sports journalist Lisa Bowes and illustrated by James Hearne.
After they were introduced, the athletes read the book to the children. The financial company Olympia Trust paid for a donation of 1,500 books to the Calgary Board of Education for use in schools.
“Tying in child literacy and sport and being active and getting that into kids’ heads is a really neat idea and really important I think,” Gough said.
“We have so many kids who sit on the couch and play video games that it’s really important to not only promote literacy, but to promote sport as well.”
The luge team has been busy lately not only training in Whistler, but with their “For Sale” campaign to attract new sponsors. The sliders spent a day on a cattle farm earlier this month when a local rancher donated a cow to the team and filled their freezers with beef.
Olympia Trust also surprised the national team with a $25,000 cheque Tuesday.
“Absolute shocker,” said Corey. “That will definitely make an impact for this Games and definitely make an impact with our junior team as well.”
The luge team is based in Calgary and trains on the track at Canada Olympic Park. The lone Canadian stop on the World Cup circuit this season is in Whistler, however, on Dec. 6-7.
Edney is looking forward to the race as he was agonizingly close to a medal on that track at last season’s world championships.
“Two hundredths (of a second) to a medal and I still remember that feeling. I don’t want to have that happen again,” Edney said. “I’ve done everything I feel like I could do right now to gain that time and try and get an edge on my competitors.
“We’ll see when we’re over in Europe and back on the World Cup circuit.”