The sliding season wound down last weekend with the last luge, skeleton and bobsleigh races of the 2011-2012 season. Next season, which is a qualifier for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, promises to be a big one, and the good news is that Canada has probably never been stronger in any of the three disciplines.
In luge, Alex Gough has been the big story for the last few seasons, and she was the big story once again. At the final event at Paramonova, Russia — the venue for 2014 — she placed fifth overall, placing her fifth in the overall rankings.
The good news was that she was on pace for a medal, in second place after the first run.
"I am disappointed today because I made a silly mistake on the second run where I hit a wall near the bottom," she said. "I think that is where I am now though. I expect more of myself every race."
Russia's Tatiana Ivanova won the race, followed by Germany's Tatjana Hufner and Corinna Martini. Arianne Jones was 13th for Canada.
Gough finished the season with three medals, a win at home in Calgary, and two bronze medals. She also won three medals with the relay team, a gold at the opener at Igls Austria; a silver medal at Whistler and a bronze at the world championships at Altenberg, Germany.
Both Gough and the team are heading into uncharted waters, with athletes setting new records every week. Before last season no Canadian had ever finished on the podium at a World Cup or world championship, much less won a race. Now Gough is a legitimate contender in every race, while her teammates are slowly catching up. San Edney, who did not race in Russia, had his personal best season and also reached the podium for the first time as part of the relay team. The tandem of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith also improved significantly this season, moving into the top 10 — including a ninth in Russia — and earning three podiums as part of the relay.
The bobsleigh and skeleton season wrapped up at Lake Placid this past weekend with the skeleton and four-man bobsleigh.
Mellisa Hollingsworth won a silver medal, which matched her previous best at a four-run, world championship event.
"It is just awesome," she said. "I had four consistent runs and that's all you can ask for in this kind of race."
Katie Uhlaender of the U.S. came into the race an unheralded, and took the win on her home track. Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain was third.
Sarah Reid and Amy Gough were 11th and 12th respectively for Canada.
In the men's skeleton, John Fairbairn placed 10th and Michael Douglas 11th. The win went to Martin Dukurs of Latvia, followed by Frank Rommel of Germany and Ben Sandford of New Zealand.
Canada's four-man bobsleigh teams have struggled all season with crashes, injuries and a rotating list of athletes, but at last pilot Lyndon Rush found his way to the podium in Calgary two weeks ago in third place.
At Lake Placid the team of Rush, Jesse Lumsden, Cody Sorensen and Neville Wright couldn't replicate that feat and placed seventh.