One Cochrane athlete already has himself an Olympic medal, while the other is only two games away from playing for gold or bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
Cochranite Tristan Walker and his partner Justin Snith finished in fifth place during the men’s double luge competition, four years after finishing fourth in all three of their events during the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. But that didn’t stop the pair and their teammates Alex Gough and Sam Edney from making a little bit of Canadian history in the team relay on Feb. 15.
Canada had never won an Olympic medal in luge before these Games and the dedicated band of sliders from Calgary did it twice in one week. Alex Gough won bronze in the women’s event, and the four-person team combined to win silver in the team relay with a total time of 2:24.872. Germany won the gold and Austria the bronze.
The medal was no sure thing in an event that has one women’s, one men’s and one doubles team slide down the track in sequence. Canada came into the event ranked third, meaning they went third last. The American team just in front of them put down a strong time of 2:25.091, the best of the night to that point.
Only six nations had ever won Olympic luge medals before Canada’s breakthrough.
“Absolutely incredible. To be able to do that with those guys and compete together with them, it’s incredible,” Walker said post race.
“No words. No words. The monkey off the back.”
“We were so close in Sochi. You spend four years, that close, what could have been, not having that moment, but to finally have that moment … priceless,” added Walker’s double partner Justin Snith.
“There’s something shared with the heartbreak of Sochi. We’ve been through the ringer with each other and this is just the perfect way to end Sam (Edney) and Alex’s (Gough) career.”
Another Cochrane born athlete, Mason Raymond, is doing his part to try and help the Canadian Olympic Men’s hockey team secure their third straight Olympic gold medal.
Playing on a line with team captain Chris Kelly and Christian Thomas, Raymond has one goal and six penalty minutes in three games so far for the men who won two of their three round robin games, taking out Switzerland 5-1 and Korea 4-0. The team’s only defeat came at the hands of the Czech Republic, suffering a 3-2 loss in a shootout. With the three games played, Team Canada secured seven of a possible nine points and a berth to the quarterfinals where they took on Team Finland and came away with a 1-0 victory.
When asked about what his message to his players was ahead of the quarterfinal, Canadian head coach Willie Desjardins was upbeat and positive during his press conference.
“My messages is that I’m proud of the way they’ve played,” Desjardins said.
“I think they’ve played hard … I’m happy with the way the group’s played. But now it doesn’t matter. Now it’s only the one game that counts.”
The Canadians ranked first in power-play efficiency in the preliminary round, with a 45.4 per cent success rate, and fourth on the penalty kill at 87.50 per cent. Only the Swiss and Slovenia gave up fewer penalties than the Canadians. The team is tied with Sweden with a plus-seven goal difference, second only to the Russian entry, and Team Canada has yet to trail in regulation.
The Canadian men will now advance to the semifinals where they will take on an upbeat German squad, one that pulled off a massive upset over heavily favoured Sweden by a score of 4-3 in overtime.
Canada has an overall record of 27-1-1 against Germany in Olympic and World Championship play and has also won the last 11 meetings, but Desjardins said his team wouldn’t take tenth seeded Germans lightly ahead of the match up.
“I know more about their league (the Deutsche Eishockey Liga) and it’s a good league,” Desjardins said following their quarterfinal game.
“Germany’s playing well. They’ve beat some good teams, so that means they’re playing well.”
“You don’t get luck in this tournament. Germany’s got some confidence and they’re going to be a tough team to play against.”
Catch Raymond and his Canadian teammates in the semifinal at 5:10 a.m. on Feb. 23.