The final tally after three days of racing at Whistler Sliding Centre was five medals for Canada, all of them surprising in some way to the athletes.
For skeleton athlete Mellisa Hollingsworth, Thursday's World Cup race was an exorcism of sorts. In the 2010 Winter Games she was in the lead after the first three runs, but made an error in her fourth and final run that dropped her back to fifth place. Almost two years later she at last stood on top of the podium at Whistler Sliding Centre last Thursday, putting that demon to bed.
"When I was warming up (after the first run) it was pretty eerie," she said. "It was the same month, the sun was setting on the same mountain, I had the same feeling, the same position," said Hollingsworth, noting that even the temperature was about the same as it was during the Olympics when she lost the lead.
"I told my coach and he said 'that's good.' He said a lot of people would be happy to be in my position, that I should appreciate being number one (after the first run)... But I know I'm my own worst enemy, and in Whistler the one word that I keep telling myself was 'respect' — respect the track."
The win in Whistler bumped Hollingsworth up to third in the overall rankings, one of her goals coming into the season — a third-place ranking would automatically qualify her for the national team next season, without the need to qualify at nationals.
She said she deliberately tuned out the rest of the race, ignoring splits and times posted by other athletes while focusing on her own race — and in a way that's too bad because it was a dramatic night at Whistler Sliding Centre that showed the athleticism and skill of the athletes. Athletes who were fast at the top went high on corners and bumped into walls in the bottom section to drop off the pace, while slow starters found speed in the lower section and climbed the ranks. The 16th fastest racer in the first round posted the third-fastest time in the second run. The seventh fastest in the first run posted the 13th fastest second run. Germany's Marion Thees, currently ranked first overall, had a fast start, slow middle and fast finish to hold onto her lead in the points.
The course rewarded consistency, and Hollingsworth posted the fastest two runs of the day for a combined time of 1:49.79, followed by Lucy Katherine Chaffer of Australia and Shelley Rudman of Germany.
The other Canadians also did well. Sarah Reid posted one of her best results of the season in sixth place, jumping up nine spots with a fast second run. Amy Gough was sitting ninth after the first run and posted the fourth-fastest second run to move up to seventh.