Luger Gough slides into his­tory

National Post (National Edition) - - SPORTS - Donna Spencer

C A L G A R Y • Alex Gough will have a farewell slide on her home track Satur­day when Canada’s most dec­o­rated luger an­nounces her re­tire­ment.

The 31-year-old Cal­gar­ian was the­firstCana­diantow­inanO­lympic medal in luge when she claimed bronze in women’s sin­gles in Fe­bru­ary’s Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

That Olympic break­through pre­ceded an­other two days later when Gough, Sam Ed­ney, Justin Snith and Tris­tan Walker won sil­ver in the team re­lay in Pyeongchang.

Gough was mar­ried in 2016 and is in her third year of civil en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary.

She hasn’t raced this sea­son. Gough will make her re­tire­ment run prior to Satur­day’s women’s com­pe­ti­tion at a World Cup in Cal­gary.

“I’m just div­ing into ev­ery­thing that’s com­ing next for me and I’ve been busy all sum­mer, busy this fall,” Gough told The Cana­dian Press.

“I’m pretty at peace with the de­ci­sions that I made.”

In Cana­dian slid­ing sports, luge took a back seat while Cana­di­ans won Olympic medals in bob­sleigh and skele­ton through the 1990s and first decade of this cen­tury.

Cana­di­ans won an oc­ca­sional World Cup medal in luge af­ter the 1988 Win­ter Olympics in Cal­gary, but Gough was the first to be a consistent medal threat and chal­lenge Ger­many’s dom­i­na­tion.

She snapped a run of 105 con­sec­u­tive wins by Ger­man women when she claimed her first World Cup vic­tory Feb. 12, 2011 in Para­monovo, Rus­sia.

Gough owns six world cham­pi­onship medals, in­clud­ing women’s sin­gles bronze in 2011 and 2013, team re­lay sil­ver in 2013 and team re­lay bronze in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

She’s won 27 World Cup medals in women’s sin­gles — in­clud­ing three gold — as well as an­other 16 World Cup medals in the re­lay with the dou­bles team of Walker and Snith and most of­ten Ed­ney as team­mates.

“In a word, it’s def­i­nitely a leg- acy,” Snith said. “From the begin­ning of her ca­reer, she was al­ways a fighter.”

Walker be­lieves Gough’s bronze in Pyeongchang paved the way for the re­lay sil­ver.

“I don’t think we would have medalled in the re­lay if she didn’t medal in her race,” Walker said. “It to­tally put the team into a mind­set that was ca­pa­ble of win­ning.”

Gough grew up in Cal­gary at­tend­ing the Na­tional Sport School and train­ing on the WinS­port slid­ing track, which was the slid­ing venue for the ’88 Win­ter Olympics in the city.

“Since she started win­ning medals, we have mostly girls in our pro­gram,” Luge Canada ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Tim Farstad said. “It can’t be a co­in­ci­dence.

“Young girls are say­ing ‘Alex Gough, I want to go win medals like her.’ From re­cruit­ment all the way up, we’ve seen a big in­crease in girls in the sport.”

Gough’s as­cen­dancy and that of her team­mates co­in­cided with Luge Canada’s 2007 hir­ing of Wolf­gang Staudinger from the powerhouse Ger­man sys­tem to be the head coach of the na­tional team.

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