Canadian luger Alex Gough, of Calgary celebrates winning a bronze medal in women’s luge at the Olympic Siding Centre at he Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea on February 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Sliding into history, luger Alex Gough broke new ground for Canada

Gough announces her retirement on Saturday

Alex Gough will have a farewell slide on her home track Saturday when Canada’s most decorated luger announces her retirement.

The 31-year-old Calgarian was the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in luge when she claimed bronze in women’s singles in February’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

That Olympic breakthrough preceded another two days later when Gough, Sam Edney, Justin Snith and Tristan Walker won silver in the team relay in Pyeongchang.

Gough was married in 2016 and is in her third year of civil engineering studies at the University of Calgary.

She hasn’t raced this season. Gough will make her retirement run prior to Saturday’s women’s competition at a World Cup in Calgary.

RELATED: Canada captures silver in luge team relay

“I’m just diving into everything that’s coming next for me and I’ve been busy all summer, busy this fall,” Gough told The Canadian Press. “I’m pretty at peace with the decisions that I made.”

In Canadian sliding sports, luge took a back seat while Canadians won Olympic medals in bobsleigh and skeleton through the 1990s and first decade of this century.

Canadians won an occasional World Cup medal in luge after the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, but Gough was the first to be a consistent medal threat and challenge Germany’s domination.

She snapped a run of 105 consecutive wins by German women when she claimed her first World Cup victory Feb. 12, 2011 in Paramonovo, Russia.

Gough owns six world championship medals, including women’s singles bronze in 2011 and 2013, team relay silver in 2013 and team relay bronze in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

She’s won 27 World Cup medals in women’s singles — including three gold — as well as another 16 World Cup medals in the relay with the doubles team of Walker and Snith and most often Edney as teammates.

“In a word, it’s definitely a legacy,” Snith said. “From the beginning of her career, she was always a fighter.”

Walker believes Gough’s bronze in Pyeongchang paved the way for the relay silver.

“I don’t think we would have medalled in the relay if she didn’t medal in her race,” Walker said. “It totally put the team into a mindset that was capable of winning.”

Gough grew up in Calgary attending the National Sport School and training on the WinSport sliding track, which was the sliding venue for the ‘88 Winter Olympics in the city.

“Since she started winning medals, we have mostly girls in our program,” Luge Canada executive director Tim Farstad said. “It can’t be a coincidence.

“Young girls are saying ‘Alex Gough, I want to go win medals like her.’ From recruitment all the way up, we’ve seen a big increase in girls in the sport.”

Gough’s ascendency and that of her teammates coincided with Luge Canada’s 2007 hiring of Wolfgang Staudinger from the powerhouse German system to be the head coach of the national team.

The Canadian team has also graduated 34-year-old Edney, who said in Pyeongchang the relay was his last slide.

Edney was the first Canadian man to claim a World Cup gold in 2015 when he was victorious in Calgary. He also collected a World Cup silver and a bronze in men’s singles during his career.

The Canadians’ successes were not without setbacks.

Gough, Edney, Snith and Walker all finished fourth in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, just off the podium in women’s singles, doubles and the team relay.

In the weeks before the 2018 Winter Games, they were briefly upgraded to relay bronze and dropped to fourth again when two Russians initially stripped of their 2014 results for alleged doping had that decision overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

RELATED: Canada picks up a medal of every colour at the PyeongChang Olympics

Canada’s luge team anticipated a breakthrough at home during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

The death of Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia in a pre-Games training crash at the Whistler Sliding Centre shocked the luge community and prompted the moving of the start houses to lower points on the track for those games, which negated the home-track advantage for the host team.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Helping with Christmas bird count is ‘citizen science’

Port Alberni’s bird count will be Dec. 28, 2019; volunteers are needed

BUDGET 2020: Port Alberni Fire Department needs new equipment

Police services ask for funding for community policing office

Child care sector feels the squeeze in Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District

There are five children for every licensed child care space in the ACRD

Alberni Valley Community Forest manager hosts open house

More trails registered in community forest

EDITORIAL: We all have a say in Port Alberni’s annual budget

The City of Port Alberni released its proposed five-year financial plan for 2020-2024…

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Most Read