The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang are fast approaching, and with 56 Alberta-based athletes joining the rest of Team Canada to take on all the thrills and chills of their various events, we’re ready to cheer them on! We caught up with some local lugers to find out just what it means to be an Albertan Olympic athlete and what the support of their province means to them.
Flying feet first down a track of ice at upwards of 135 km an hour might sound more than a little intimidating to most. In fact, it sounds downright dangerous! For Olympic Luge athletes like Alex Gough, Samuel Edney, and Tristan Walker, this is just another day at the office and they’ve spent years preparing for the opportunity to put their training to the test. Like many Olympians, these three have dedicated countless hours to training and competing, and have experienced all of the highs and lows associated with the race to the podium. During the Sochi Olympics for example, Canada placed 4th in the Luge Mixed Team Relay, missing the third place medal by only a tenth of a second. Although it was a best-ever finish for Canada, it was an understandably bittersweet accomplishment. In a true show of determination however, Samuel Edney has transformed adversity into motivation.
“That 4th place finish has taught me so much about myself, sport and life. I value this experience now and feel I am a better person from it. Also, it’s motivated the heck out of me, and I hope to never feel the agony of being a tenth off the podium again!”
Now more than ever these athletes are hungry for another shot at the glory and gratification of an Olympic medal.
On the right track
The devotion that it takes to compete in Luge at an Olympic level extends far beyond the track. Diet regimes, equipment costs, time commitment, and travel are some of the costly examples of the obstacles faced by Olympians. One source of support is a Podium Alberta grant available through Alberta Sport Connection, something Tristan Walker benefitted from firsthand.
“Podium Alberta funding is a key part to any Albertan athlete’s success. From filling up the car to get back and forth from training, to taking the edge off the grocery bill when you’re crushing 5000 calories a day, they’ve always been there. When you’re fighting for thousandths of a second on the track, they are an absolute difference maker.”
The Podium Alberta grant provides support to athletes that help them navigate their competitive goals. This includes increased access to high performance coaching and sports science practitioners, enhanced availability of training and competitive opportunities, and the ability for athletes to fulfill educational goals while pursuing excellence in sport.
Women on the track
Luge is also a sport that has seen strong growth in female competitors in recent years. Alex Gough, who also placed a Canadian best 4th in women’s singles luge at Sochi 2014 and is now going to her fourth Olympic Games, is one of these pioneers leading the way for aspiring young athletes. She’s been competing since her early teens, and has been able to watch the sport grow and evolve.
“The women’s field has gotten a lot stronger since I started; there are more women from more countries that are strong contenders. There’s a women’s doubles category in the works which will be interesting to watch develop. We are also seeing more women staff on teams. Whether they are luge coaches or as other staff, it’s good to see.”
Alex has also experienced the impact of sport on young women first-hand and, recognizing the importance of promoting and supporting sports endeavors amongst young women and girls, she is a Fast and Female ambassador.
“Having the support of my sport community got me through a lot of the challenges of being a teenager and helped me to develop the confidence I have now in myself and what I can accomplish. I want to help support this kind of community for other young girls and help promote more girls staying in sports through junior high and high school. It’s so important to empower young women and girls, and sport is a great way to do that.”
Catch them in action
Luge is one of the first events to kick off the PyeongChang Olympics, so be ready to catch these athletes and their teammates putting their training to the test! It’s always fun to cheer on these elite competitors, but it’s especially exciting to cheer for some of our very own hometown heroes. Be sure to mark your calendars so you don’t miss any of the action!
Follow them on their social media to cheer them on or keep up with the Olympic news!