The sliding sports are unique in Canada in that the national championships are held at the start of the season, in order to rank competitors heading into the World Cup season.
At the Visa Bobsleigh and Skeleton Canadian Championships this past weekend in Calgary there were no real surprises.
In skeleton, Olympic champion Jon Montgomery showed himself to be in top form once again with a convincing win. His two-run time of one minute, 53.03 seconds was 0.46 seconds ahead of Eric Neilson, with Jon Fairbairn picking up the bronze in 1:53.82.
"This was a great start to the season, pushing a personal best (on the course) and I'm content with my sliding," said Montgomery. "There is always room for improvement, but I had a good nervous energy at the line on the first run, which means I've still got that competitive drive in me. The day I don't is the day I hang up the spikes, but right now it is good and I'm looking forward to the season."
On the women's side, 2006 bonze medallist Melissa Hollingsworth took the national title with a combined time of 1:55.61. She was followed by Amy Gough in 1:56.54 and Sarah Reid in 1:56.94.
"I was really happy because I was on an altered training plan and didn't know where I would stand today," said Hollingsworth. "This was a very important race for me to bounce back from last year (fifth at the Olympics). We spend three weeks on the Calgary track preparing for today so anything could happen. It is nice to have this race under my belt."
In bobsleigh, Olympic champions Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse did not compete because Moyse was injured. That left the race wide open for Olympic silver medallists Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown.
"I really wish Kaillie would have been there to compete," said Upperton. "She has really pushed me over the last few years and it would have made the race even more exciting for all the girls to have the Olympic gold medallist there.
Upperton's two-run time was 1:55.68, followed by the team of Melissa These in 1:55.81 and Jenny Ciochetti in 1:58.06.
On the men's side, Olympic bronze medallist Lyndon Rush steered his team towards the gold medal in the nationals in both the four-man and two-man categories. In two man, the sled piloted by Adam Anderson was second, with Chris Spring of Australia placing third.
All of Canada's bobsleigh and skeleton athletes are now in Whistler or en route in order to take part in the international training week at the Whistler Sliding Centre from Nov. 15 to Nov. 21. The first World Cup of the season for skeleton and bobsleigh is in Whistler from Nov. 25 to Nov. 27, with athlete training and qualifying starting Nov. 22. Tickets are $10 per person and will be available at the Whistler Visitor Information Centre starting on Nov. 17 or by calling 1-800-WHISTLER (944-7853). Kids 6 and under are free, but will still need to obtain a ticket.
Women's skeleton and bobsleigh is on Nov. 25, men's skeleton and men's two-man bobsleigh is on Nov. 26, and the men's four-man bobsleigh is on Nov. 27.
The detailed schedule is online at www.whistlerslidingcentre.com.