The Canadian luge team is not counting on any home ice advantage when the FIL Luge World Championships roll into Whistler next week, according to head coach Wolfgang Staudinger. With the construction new luge starts and an international training week before the races, Staudinger said all athletes will be on equal footing when the racing gets underway on Feb. 1 — and Germany, as always, will be the team to beat.
"When we were sliding from the original start heights, that gave us an edge," he said. "Bobsleigh still has this edge because they compete from the top and the course is technical, but we've had that advantage taken away from us."
The team had a chance to train at the new starts back in December, but Staudinger said that all the athletes will get 20 to 25 runs during the training week, not including official training runs for the championships. "All the technical difficulties have been taken away, and now it's an easy, short track that makes it difficult to find an edge. And the Germans or anybody in the top eight won't need 20 runs to master the courses. For us it will be like racing any track in Europe, and the Germans, who are great, fast, athletic starters are going to be hard to beat here. They're the clear favourites, it's not us."
That said, the Canadian Luge Team is continuing to show improvements. Two seasons ago Alex Gough earned Canada's first ever World Cup luge podium, and she's been back to the podium several times since then. She's the first non-German to win a Luge World Cup since 1997. Gough has been on the podium twice so far this year and hasn't finished out of the top six.
The women's team is particularly strong, with Arianne Jones and Kimberley McRae both finishing in the top 10.
Athletes on the men's team, led by Sam Edney, have yet to land a podium but are posting or matching personal bests, while the men's doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith is also setting personal bests.
In the relatively new sport of Team Relay, Canada is also one of the stronger overall teams with two podiums this season, and three podiums in 2011-2012.
Tristan Walker did miss an event and relay this year with a mild concussion, but was back on ice for the last World Cup event and Staudinger is confident he'll be more than ready for doubles and the relay event in Whistler.
Staudinger said the improvements to team performances haven't happened overnight and aren't complete. He compared the team to running a business where you can spend the first few years without turning a profit.