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Spring second at Winterberg

Solid weekend for Canada as Greszczyszyn takes first medal



It's been quite the season for everything to all come together for Chris Spring.

In the first four two-man races of the season, the local pilot hasn't finished any lower than seventh, capturing two podiums — a win here in Whistler and, most recently, a second-place showing in Winterberg, Germany on Dec. 9. Spring has been driving with brakeman Neville Wright this season.

The races were affected by heavy snowfall, but for once, Spring said, the conditions seemed to work in his favour as he finished behind only the Swiss sled of Clemens Bracher and Michael Kuonen. Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis of Germany were third.

"At the end of the day, I just want a fair race and a fair chance for everyone to be successful," Spring said. "I think that we definitely performed and executed how we wanted to, but at the same time, I think there were a few teams that got a little bit hosed with the weather. That was the unfortunate thing for them, but that's racing, I guess.

"There have been multiple times where I've gotten hooped by the snow before, so it was about time the snow helped us out a bit."

The heavy precipitation affects the run from the get-go, but Spring explained he and Wright and their coaches had an effective plan that they executed well.

"When it's snowing hard like that, it's tougher to push through at the start," Spring said. "We had to change our gameplan going into the race knowing that we had to push a little bit deeper.

"If we load into the sled at the normal time where we're used to and there's a lot of snow in front of us, then it really hinders the acceleration. We push a bit deeper, but at the same time, we have to be really quick getting in because those grooves along the track for the first 50 metres, they run out. We have to make sure we're in and settled before that first curve."

Winterberg is a track where Spring has had a variance of results, but none more disappointing than the stop in January where he failed to advance to a second run in the two- and four-man events. However, he'd also had a handful of top-10 finishes, including a fifth in 2014.

"It was nice to get on the podium because I've been quite close before," he said.

Spring is second in the overall standings this season, sitting behind only fellow Canadian Justin Kripps, who was just off the podium in Winterberg, taking fourth. Nick Poloniato and Lascelles Brown took fifth in the race.

"We're always battling for medals. Winning, or winning medals, battling for the podium isn't a surprise for us anymore. We're getting a lot more used to being successful and I think that's really important for us," he said.

Spring is currently looking to keep the strong feelings going at this weekend's competition in Igls, Austria, where he's also had a mixed bag. Spring set the track record there in 2014 but has also finished off the pace on other occasions. He said the track is commonly thought of as the easiest to drive on the circuit, so the start could be where medals are won and lost.

"I really want to be putting down good lines and good runs in the sled, so it's important we get off to a fast start," he said. "The focus this week is to make sure that we have top-three starts so we can make sure that we're top-three again at the bottom."

Spring took sixth at Igls at the World Championships in 2016 and hopes to complete his "unfinished business."

The Canadians also fared well in the four-man, with Kripps piloting his sled to fourth and Spring taking fifth. Poloniato took 16th in a German sweep completed in order by pilots Johannes Lochner, Nico Walther and Friedrich.

The German women dominated in that race, with Stephanie Schneider and Lisa Buckwitz taking the win over Americans Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs, and fellow Germans Mariama Jamanka and Annika Drazek. The Canadian sled of Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz was just off the podium in fourth while Alyssia Rissling and Heather Moyse placed 16th and Christine de Bruin and Cynthia Appiah were 21st.

Canadian skeleton athletes were also strong as Dave Greszczyszyn took home his first World Cup medal with a third behind South Korea's Sungbin Yun and Latvia's Martins Dukurs. Fellow Canuck Kevin Boyer was 12th while Barrett Martineau took 28th. On the women's side, Elisabeth Vathje took home hardware with a second behind only German Jacqueline Loelling while Russia's Elena Nikitina took third. Just out of the medals were Mirela Rahneva in fourth and North Vancouver's Jane Channell in sixth.