Canadian Alex Gough is on a nice roll heading into the Sochi Winter Games.
The 26-year-old from Calgary capped the World Cup season off in style, finishing second in a second straight women’s singles luge event Saturday.
American Kate Hansen claimed the gold medal with a two-run time of one minute 23.976 seconds. Gough, the first-run leader, finished second, 0.076 seconds behind.
Russian Natalia Khoreva was third, 0.176 seconds back.
Gough claimed her 17th career World Cup medal.
“That was a very good race today with two solid runs,” said Canadian team coach Wolfgang Staudinger. “We are only at this track once every two years so to be able to perform on a track where we have minimal runs is impressive.”
Calgary’s Kimberley McRae finished sixth in 1:24.37 while Arianne Jones, also of Calgary, was 16th in 1:24.790.
In men’s doubles, Tristan Walker of Cochrane, Alta., and Calgary’s Justin Snith were eighth in 1:23.304.
Hansen was a surprise winner Saturday, becoming the first American to prevail in a singles race on the circuit since Nov. 22, 1997. It gave both her and the team a major infusion of confidence heading into next month’s Sochi Games.
“Of course it’s a great surprise for me,” Hansen said. “I’ve never dreamed of winning the event.”
Hansen was a five-year-old when Cameron Myler gave the U.S. its most recent singles victory on the World Cup circuit, which also came in Sigulda. And she wasn’t even born when Germany last failed to have a woman reach the medal podium after a race on tour.
Improbable as it sounds, both things happened Saturday. The 21-year-old Hansen capped her win with a track-record run in the second heat, while Germany — which in fairness kept its top three sliders, including World Cup champion Natalie Geisenberger, out of the competition so they could prepare for the Olympics instead — had no one finish better than seventh, an absolute rarity for the deepest team in the world.
Hansen’s gold is the first for the U.S. in any major international race since Erin Hamlin won the world championship in 2009.
“This is a momentous occasion,” USA Luge spokesman Sandy Caligiore said.
Germany’s top slider was Dajana Eitberger, about a half-second behind Hansen. Germany had earned a medal in every World Cup women’s singles race since 1988.
Whether the German best were there or not, it was still a breakthrough for Hansen.
The U.S. national champion held the lead at the midway point of the season-opening race at Lillehammer, Norway, then slipped all the way back to 12th in the second heat. And before Saturday, she had never even earned a medal in a World Cup race.
Now she’s heading to her first Olympics knowing how winning feels.
“I don’t know if the pressure with regard to the upcoming Olympic Games will be greater now,” Hansen said. “It’s a good question. But we’ll see.”
Geisenberger, who clinched the World Cup title a week earlier, finished the season with 785 standings points. Gough was second with 626, Germany’s Tatjana Huefner was third with 551, followed by Germany’s Anke Wischnewski (493) and Eitberger (432).
With files from The Associated Press.
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