Calgary’s Vathje claims bronze in World Cup skeleton race at St. Moritz

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Calgary’s Elisabeth Vathje slid to a bronze medal in women’s skeleton competition at a World Cup event on Friday.

The 23-year-old finished third on the world’s only non-refrigerated track in St. Moritz, considered the birthplace of skeleton, a two-run time of two minutes 19.89 seconds.

Austria’s Janine Flock won the race in 2:19.44. Germany’s Tina Hermann slid to the silver in 2:19.86.

“It feels great to be on the podium again, especially here in Moritz,” said Vathje, who had previously racked up three silver medals heading into the second-last World Cup race of the season.

It was the 10th career World Cup podium for Vathje and her second podium ever in St. Moritz. Vathje slid to silver in 2015, and narrowly missed out on the medals one year ago when she was fourth.

On Friday, she was poised to repeat that silver medal performance while sitting in second spot after her first trip down the 1,700-metre chute of natural ice that winds its way to the finish line in the town of Celerina. Vathje was forced to quickly compose herself after a mistake at the top of the track in her final heat to hold onto a podium spot.

“The key was relaxing after my mistake, to stop moving and the let the sled accelerate itself,” said Vathje. “It’s nice to be back on the podium here this year. I narrowly missed it last year, and I narrowly remained on it this time. Sliding in St. Moritz is magical. It’s quiet, smooth and fast. There is really no combination more beautiful.”

Vathje edged out Ottawa’s Mirela Rahneva for bronze by .03 seconds. Rahneva bounced back following a disappointing first run where she was in 13th place to clock the fastest second-run time at 1:09.35.

Jane Channell, of North Vancouver, placed 14th with a two-run time of 2:20.91.

Vathje sits in second place in the overall World Cup standings with just one race remaining on the calendar before the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

“My focus is one run at a time, and I have three goals per run – the times don’t matter. That’s been my focus from the beginning, and when that has wavered so has the performances,” added Vathje. “Being on the podium is always a nice confidence booster regardless of the season. It’s a reminder to me that I can compete with the top girls.”

Korea’s Sungbin Yun won the men’s skeleton race with a time of 2:14.77. Germany’s Axel Jungk claimed the silver medal at 2:15.64, while Latvia’s Martins Dukurs battled to the bronze with a time of 2:15.87.

Kevin Boyer, of Sherwood Park, Alta., was the top Canadian in 18th (2:17.64). Dave Greszczyszyn (Brampton, Ont.), and Patrick Rooney (Calgary) did not qualify for the second run with the top-20, finishing 22nd and 29th respectively.

The World Cup continues on Saturday in St. Moritz with the women’s and two-man bobsled races.

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