Trinity Ellis is representing the future of Canada’s luge team on the World Cup circuit this season.
The teenager is showing her potential after just one race.
Ellis, from Pemberton, B.C., placed eighth last weekend at the season-opening World Cup in Austria for her first career top-10 finish on the senior team. She followed that up with a fourth-place showing in the team relay event the next day.
“It’s definitely a young team, I think we’re one of the youngest on the whole circuit,” the 17-year-old said in a phone interview from Lake Placid, N.Y., site of this weekend’s World Cup event. “We’re missing a lot of those more experienced athletes now, but even though we’re young we’re still capable of proving ourselves.
“We’re still developing – maybe not quite at the podium level yet – but we’re definitely getting there.”
Alex Gough and Sam Edney, two of Canada’s most accomplished luge athletes, retired following the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, paving the way for a new crop of talent to push through.
Both Gough and Edney grew up in Calgary, where they got their early reps as kids on the Olympic track from the 1988 Games. Ellis, however, was introduced to luge on a Grade 6 field trip to the Whistler track that was constructed for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Edney, now the high performance manager for Luge Canada, sees the significance of the 2010 Games in luring younger athletes to the sport.
“We’re seeing the legacy switching over to Vancouver – we’ve got two athletes now that have come straight out of Whistler – and that’s going to be the next step for our program for sure,” Edney said. “It’s a young team, but it’s a really bright team and I think Trinity is a big part of that.”
Gough, 32, retired as the most decorated luger in Canadian history with 43 World Cup medals, including 27 in women’s singles and two Olympic medals from Pyeongchang (bronze in singles and silver in relay).
Ellis first met Gough three years ago when Luge Canada combined a training camp in Calgary for the junior and senior team. She credits Gough – and fellow veteran Kim McRae – with inspiring her when she was first starting out in the sport.
“I was 14 at the time and it was just super motivating to see how they would train and slide and just to be in the same environment they were in,” Ellis said. “Alex has always been kind of the top athlete in Canada and growing up seeing her and Kim, watching them compete at the Games and having that success, was super cool.
“And they’ve always been really supportive. Any questions I might have about tracks or anything, they’re always super helpful even when they’re halfway around the world.”
Ellis and the rest of Canada’s team arrived in Lake Placid on Monday in preparation for the weekend competition. While she feels confident heading into the event after opening the season so strong, Ellis said she wasn’t expecting that level of success to come so quickly.
She was in 16th place after her first run in Austria last week, but finished with a two-run combined time of one minute 21.594 seconds – 0.126 seconds off the podium – to catapult to eighth.
“That was a surprise for sure,” Ellis said. “I was just kinda hanging out at the bottom [of the track] waiting for the truck to take me back up and I’m just waiting, watching as people were coming down and once I knew I was going to finish top 10 and I was like, ’Wow, that’s really sick.'“
After Lake Placid, Ellis will return to Whistler, roughly a 30-minute drive from her hometown, for her first World Cup stop in Canada next month.
“I’m super excited for that race,” she said of the Dec. 13-14 competition. “Having it on the home track, it will be really cool to have the home crowd there.
“It will be the first race a lot of my friends and family will be able to make it out to so I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Edney acknowledged that competing at home for the first time can put extra pressure on a young athlete like Ellis, but it also presents the best opportunity for her to shine.
“Undoubtedly it’s the [World Cup] you want to do your best at, and Trinity is going to have some of the most experience on that track than other athletes competing that weekend,” he said. “So it’s a great chance for her to just perform and rely on the training that she’s had and the experience she’s had there.
“I expect good things and I hope for good things for her. And she’s already shown us she’s on the right track.”