Canada's luge relay team slides to silver in Pyeongchang
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 15, 2018 12:22PM EST
Tristan Walker thought the Canadian luge relay team was in position for a medal when he and doubles partner Justin Snith crossed finish the line at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
They were instead on course to wind up a gut-wrenching tenth of a second back of bronze -- the program's third fourth-place showing at those Games.
Walker wanted to make sure he got it right this time.
"I made the mistake of reading the board wrong in Sochi," Walker said. "I thought we came down in a medal position, so there was about three seconds of anticipation between punching the clock and seeing my team celebrating.
"Then we knew."
Walker, from Cochrane, Alta., and Calgary's Snith completed a clean anchor leg in the team relay Thursday as Canada earned its second Olympic luge medal in 72 hours -- and second all-time -- in dramatic fashion, winning silver at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
"We were so close in Sochi," said Snith, tears running down his cheeks. "You spend years that close, what could have been, not having that moment.
"To finally have that moment is ... priceless."
Along with singles sliders Alex Gough and Sam Edney, also form Calgary, the Canadians clocked in at two minutes 24.872 seconds.
The powerhouse Germans won gold in 2:24.517, while Austria took bronze in 2:24.988.
Gough, Edney and members of the Canadian coaching staff mobbed Walker and Snith after their doubles run put Canada atop the standings with just the Austrians and Germans left to race.
And they then jumped for joy when the Austrians failed to beat their time, wrapping themselves in the Maple Leaf following the race.
"I couldn't ask for a more amazing team to be a part of in this experience. Super proud of these three, and our entire program," said Edney. "It's something we've worked so hard for."
Gough, Edney, Snith and Walker had their Sochi performance briefly bumped up to bronze for what would have been Canada's first luge podium at a Games in December when two Russian competitors were among dozens of athletes from the host nation stripped of their 2014 results and banned for life for alleged doping violations by the International Olympic Committee.
But the Canadians were once again pushed back to fourth following the Court of Arbitration for Sport's recent decision to overturn the punishment for 28 of those athletes, including lugers Albert Demchenko and Tatiana Ivanova.
"It shows the strength of our team," said Edney. "That fuelled us. That fuelled us for a long time
"I just know that we put in all the hard work and we did everything right. Tonight was about sliding for each other and sliding for Canada, and we did that."
Gough secured the country's first-ever Olympic medal in luge, a drought that dated back to 1968, with a bronze in Tuesday's women's race.
"It's incredible," said Gough. "The first one was awesome, but to get to come out here and race it with these guys ... it's such an amazing feeling to do it in a team format.
"I wanted it so bad for them. I put together the best run I could. They followed it up and we got the redemption from four years ago."
Canadian head coach Wolfgang Staudinger said Gough's breakthrough gave the team confidence.
"The motivation, the focus and everything goes up because the rest want to win one, too," he said. "I could see that they were ready. They were not scared.
"They were like going into a battle in war."
In the team relay, the women's slider goes first, followed by the men's racer and the doubles partners, with each striking the finish pad at the bottom of the track to signal they've completed their run.
Staudinger said he was quietly confident, but added it was down to Walker and Snith to get the job done.
"I expected it somewhat because I know with Alex and with Sam we have excellent racing," said the colourful German, who took over the program in 2007. "They were fast, they were quick, they had the speed. The doubles finally got it together, pulled one out of the (fire) and had a really good run and that was enough for silver.
"We maxed out."
Like his sliders, Staudinger took the results in Sochi, which also included a fifth for Kimberley McCrae in the women's race, extremely hard.
"Sochi for me now, is history," he said. "It was very draining.
"I'm very proud of how they came out of such a setback, and they did it in style. This was a top-notch performance."
Edney was sixth in Sunday's men's race, while Walker and Snith were fifth in Wednesday's doubles at the 16-curve Olympic Sliding Centre track in the South Korean mountains that measures just over 1,200 metres.
Edney has said he will retire after these Games, Gough seems likely follow suit, and Walker and Snith indicated their futures remain very much up in the air.
If all four are indeed done, they're heading out the door in style.
"That's the best way to get out of a sport," said Staudinger. "If they decide to retire right now I wouldn't be upset.
"They've done their work."