Kaillie Humphries kicked off 2017 in style.
The legendary Canadian bobsleigh pilot picked up her second win of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) season in Altenberg, Germany, with brakeman Melissa Lotholz, besting Americans Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones by 0.70 seconds. Christina Hengster and Sanne Monique Dekker of Austria placed third.
With the win, the two-time defending Olympic champion Humphries has now hit the podium in 12 consecutive races, leaving her one away from equalling her personal best. She admittedly wasn't completely thrilled with how she performed in the Jan. 6 race.
"I didn't drive perfectly. There were a couple of little mistakes here and there, but at the end of the day I was happy with it," Humphries said in a release. "We went out and gave it our all. Melissa stepped up today and that was great to see. We had some timing issues on our first push, but we sorted that out, got our timing on point and gained it on the second run."
As for the men, Justin Kripps and Jesse Lumsden struggled to a 14th-place finish while Germany's Francesco Friedrich and Martin Grothkopp took the win. Russia's Alexander Kasjanov and Aleksei Pushkarev were the runners-up and Latvia's Oskars Melbardis and Matiss Miknis placed third.
In women's skeleton action in Altenberg, Jane Channell of North Vancouver — a regular at the Whistler Sliding Centre — was the top Canadian, placing 11th to record her best result of the season thus far.
Channell, who took 16th-place showings in Whistler and Lake Placid to start the campaign, hopes to reset the season in Europe.
"To go along with the New Year, I'm treating this half of the season like a new start. I struggled in the first two races so I'm really working hard to turn the season around," said Channell. "Currently one of my biggest challenges is trusting my sled and believing in myself as a driver. Every run I'm constantly working on this by trying to relax into my sled to let it fly. I'm looking to take this result on a tough European track, and build off of this momentum, into next week in Winterberg."
Germany's Jacqueline Loelling took the win, besting countrywoman Tina Hermann, while Austria's Janine Flock placed third. Other Canadians in the race were Elisabeth Vathje (14th) and Mirela Rahneva (18th).
Barrett Martineau, meanwhile, topped the Canadian men's contingent, placing eighth. Rookie Kevin Boyer ended up in 19th while veteran Dave Greszczyszyn didn't qualify for a second run. Germany's Christopher Grotheer, Latvia's Martins Dukurs and Germany's Axel Jungk won the medals.
Luge athletes just off the podium
The Canadian luge relay team narrowly missed a medal in FIL World Cup action on Jan. 6.
Competing in cold, snowy conditions, Alex Gough, Mitch Malyk and the doubles sled of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith was 0.071 seconds back of third-place Austria. Germany took the win, holding off the U.S.
"We were last off today, and that may have played into us being a bit slower," Gough said in a release. "Overall our performance was not too bad, but we have some work to do to get back to consistently being on the podium."
In individual action, the doubles sled of Walker and Snith posted Canada's best result on Jan. 5, taking fifth place as the Germans swept the medals. Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arit captured gold, followed by Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken in second and Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm in third.
Gough was tops among women, sledding well aside from the last portion of her second run to place sixth. Fellow Canadian Kim McRae, meanwhile, was 11th. German Natalie Geisenberger ended up atop the heap followed by Russia's Tatyana Ivanova and fellow German Tatjana Huefner.
As for the men, Malyk and Sam Edney finished back-to-back in 13th and 14th, while Russian Semin Pavlichenko cruised to the win over Germany's Ralf Palik and Austria's Wolfgang Kindl.
Gagnon hits top 10 again
Canadian skier Marie-Michele Gagnon continued an impressive stretch of action in Maribor, Slovenia on Jan. 7.
The 27-year-old took a ninth-place showing in the FIS World Cup giant slalom for her third consecutive top-10 result. Gagnon was 1.34 seconds behind winner Tessa Worley of France while Italy's Sofia Goggia and Switzerland's Lara Gut rounded out the podium. Fellow Canadian Valerie Grenier took 22nd.
"Both my runs were pretty good but I know there is more in the tank, which is a good place to build from. I'm happy with my result but not completely satisfied, which is a good place to be since I know I can charge and take more risks," Gagnon told the Alpine Canada Alpin website.
Gagnon's run in the top 10 came to a close, but just barely, on Jan. 8 as she took a 12th in the slalom, 2.12 seconds behind American Mikaela Shiffrin's winning time. Switzerland's Wendy Holdener and Sweden's Frida Hansdotter also stood on the podium. Fellow Canadian Erin Mielzynski placed 16th.
As for the men, Erik Read took a lucky 13th in the slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 5, 2.46 seconds behind winner Manfred Moelgg of Italy. Germany's Felix Neureuther and Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen were also on the podium. Read then took 18th in the slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland on Jan. 8, 4.34 seconds behind winner Kristoffersen. Moelgg and Austrian Marcel Hirscher rounded out the top three.
Freeride club kicks off season
Members of the Whistler Freeride Club opened the season at home on Jan. 7 and 8.
The club hosted the Whistler Blackcomb Junior Freeski Regional Challenge in Goats Gully. Nearly 80 competitors between the ages of nine and 18 competed.
In the 15 to 18 event, the medallists on the male side were Cooper Bathgate, Griffin Smith and Troy Rozsypalek while on the female side, Olivia McNeill, Karina Jorgensen-Fullam and Aoife Gannon hit the podium.
In the 12 to 14 challenge, the top three males were Eric Peiffer, Jakob Jewett and Ryder Buffone while Alexa Dodds, Amber Mullings and Arabella Denniston took the female honours.
Lastly, in the nine to 11 competition, Kane Gascoigne, Luca Aiello and Lochlan Harvey were the male winners while Drea Dimma, Kayley Sherlock and Emilia Oziewicz emerged on the female side.
Complete results are available at www.freeskiers.org.