Walker, Snith lead Canada luge team into next Olympic quadrennial

CALGARY — If luge teams had captains, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith inherited the “C” for Canada.

The retirements of Alex Gough and Sam Edney made the doubles duo of Walker and Snith the most veteran sliders on Canada’s senior team with a combined 20 years on the squad.

“It’s definitely different, but we kind of planned on it,” Walker said Friday at a World Cup in Calgary.

“We knew Alex and Sam were retiring and we knew we were going to have to step into that role as the de facto in-team leaders. It’s definitely something we’re willing to take on.”

The 27-year-old Calgarians, along with Gough and Edney, won Olympic relay silver in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

The only other slider on the Canadian team over the age of 21 is Kim McRae, an eight-year veteran racing a partial schedule this season in order to pursue nursing studies.

The next generation of Canadian sliders racing and training alongside Snith and Walker — who have stood on World Cup, world championship and Olympic podiums — is crucial to developing young talent, said head coach Wolfgang Staudinger.

“Very important. You need leaders in the team for others to look up to and show that others can do well,” he said.

But Walker and Snith didn’t get the results they wanted Friday, placing ninth in doubles.

Reigning Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany won their first gold of the season ahead of teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken in second.

World Cup leaders and Olympic bronze medallists Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller of Austria placed third.

“The first run was not that good, but the second run was much better,” Wendl said. “We had the bonus at the start where we were really fast.”

In men’s singles, Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl won his second straight gold in Canada after a victory in Whistler, B.C., last week.

“On the start, it was not my day today, but in the track I knew I was really fast,” Kindl said. “I was fast throughout the week in training. Very happy I was the fastest today too.”

Russia’s Roman Repilov was second and reigning Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria finished third. Reid Watts of Whistler, B.C., was the top Canadian in 15th.

Women’s singles and the team relay are Saturday. Gough will have a retirement slide prior to the women’s competition.

The 31-year-old Calgarian was the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in luge when she won bronze in women’s singles in Pyeongchang. The relay team earned silver two days later.

Walker and Snith recovered from a major mistake in their opening run Friday to post the sixth-fastest time in their second.

“The second run was a little bit better, but we still had some pretty big mistakes on the bottom,” Snith said.

“Not totally happy with it, but like Tristan said, it’s a racing sport and we need to build on it. Take it as a training run for tomorrow in the relay and hopefully throw a good one down in the relay.”

Watts, 19, felt he made gains in Calgary after placing 22nd at the Whistler Sliding Centre last week.

“Whistler was a little messy for me, especially on the second run when I made a huge mistake up at the start,” Watts said. “Today, definitely a lot more solid.”

Colton Clarke of Airdrie, Alta., who is a 17-year-old rookie, was 22nd on Friday. Matt Riddle of Calgary placed 23rd.

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