Fourth place is starting to get old for Canada’s Justin Snith and Tristan Walker.
The Calgary duo produced their best result of the World Cup luge season Friday, only to fall agonizingly short of the doubles podium for the fourth time in 2013.
Snith and Walker were sixth after the first run before blazing to the third fastest time on their second trip down the course to finish just 0.027 seconds out of third.
“We know we’re close. We were definitely closer than we were last year,” said Snith, who along with Walker finished fourth in doubles at the 2013 world championship on the same track. “It was just the difference of our first run. We had a couple little skids on the way down and that was the difference between fourth and third.”
Snith and Walker, who also finished fourth in last season’s final two World Cup events, wound up with a combined two-run time of one minute 13.378 seconds.
“The first run had a couple little sloppy mistakes and it’s been kind of the story of the season so far,” said Walker. “It’s been frustrating. We know we have so much more to give once you get the two runs combined, but we know we’re right there.”
Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt continued their doubles dominance while extending their lead in the World Cup standings with a third victory in four races this season, finishing first at the Whistler Sliding Centre with a time of 1:13.087.
“It’s a very good track for us,” said Arlt, who paired with Wendl to win gold at last year’s world championship. “We like it a lot. It’s awesome to be here.”
German teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, the only men to beat Wendl and Arlt this season, were second with a time of 1:13.171 at the venue that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Austria’s Penter Penz and Georg Fischler were third in 1:13.351.
Germany’s Felix Loch then continued his reign in men’s singles at Whistler, winning his third straight race here after finishing his two runs in 1:36.686.
Loch, who took the overall lead in the World Cup standings with his second victory of the season, won gold at the 2010 Olympics and again last year at the world championship.
“The two runs today were really good,” said Loch. “In the first run, a little mistake out of (Turn) 12 but it was not a problem. The second one was really good.
“I’m happy about the two times.”
Chris Mazdzer of the United States surprised the field with his first-ever podium, finishing in second at 1:36.978.
“I love this track,” said a jubilant Mazdzer. “Last year I had my best result of my entire career and this year I upped it.”
German teammates Andi Langenhan and David Moller were second and third after the first run behind Loch, but a couple of mistakes opened the door for Mazdzer in the frigid conditions on the track perched above this picturesque resort town.
“I made myself a little more out of control to go faster and it paid off,” he said. “Those were two very sketchy runs, I’ll call it. Just kind of out of control, on the verge. Luckily I kept the sled going straight and made it down both times.
“There were some times I didn’t really know where I was going.”
Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller finished third with a time of 1:36.981, while Calgary’s Sam Edney wound up sixth for the third straight time this season, 0.420 back of Loch.
“Sixth place is a great result again. I know that it’s that close to the podium,” said Edney, whose two runs clocked in at 1:37.106. “It’s a matter tenths of a second, which is inspiring and motivating.”
Snith and Walker started the World Cup season with a disappointing 19th-place finish in Norway before following that up with a 12th-place showing in Austria the following week.
The pair got things going last week with a fifth-place finish in Winterberg, Germany, and went one better on Friday.
“The second run, right from the start, nailed the start cut,” said Snith. “On the way down, no problems, no skids anywhere. I knew it was a good one.”
Canada has never won an Olympic medal in luge, but is hoping to change that in Sochi in February.
Germany is the dominant power in the sport, but Canada is in the mix in all four events — doubles, men’s and women’s singles, as well as the team relay, which will be making its debut at the Games.
“(The Germans) are just humans, they’re not robots,” said Snith. “They will make mistakes and we just have to be ready and capitalize on those opportunities.
“They’re a little bit further away than I’d like them to be right now, but if we keep working like the way we have been going and working on the start, I’m sure that time difference will come down.”
Arlt agreed that the Canadians are close to cracking a top-three finish in doubles.
“It’s getting closer,” he said. “They’re very concentrated and work very hard. It’s not (far) to the podium.”
The women’s singles and team relay events go Saturday.
Notes: Mitchel Malyk and John Fennell, both of Calgary, finished the men’s singles race in 19th and 24th, respectively. ... Snith and Walker cost Canada a chance at a second-straight World Cup medal in the team relay last weekend when they left the gate early in their leg of the race and were disqualified. ... The World Cup luge schedule continues next week in Park City, Utah. ... The Whistler Sliding Centre is the same venue where 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died just hours before the start of the 2010 Olympics, prompting criticism that the course was too fast.
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