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

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

NDP solution to homelessness is to ‘warehouse’ people: BC Liberal leader

Andrew Wilkinson made a campaign stop in Campbell River and was asked about homelessness

Victoria Humane Society takes revenue hit after donation bins vandalized

Organization removes clothing donation bins after contents removed, scattered

South Island Transportation Strategy looks to reduce reliance on personal vehicles

EV charging stations, bike lockers, new park-and-ride stalls among solutions in Capital Region

Vancouver Island police officers sporting personalized face masks

Masks for Central Saanich officers will feature the crest and individual officer pin numbers

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Pedestrian dies in motor vehicle incident along the highway near Nanaimo Airport

Police investigating scene where 37-year-old woman from Nanaimo died

B.C. VOTES 2020: Few solutions offered for ‘out of control’ camping

B.C. Liberals, NDP spend millions as problem keeps growing

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Parksville pedestrian airlifted to hospital in Vancouver after nighttime collision

Police report man’s injuries were ‘significant’ but not life-threatening

Shoplifting suspect allegedly spits on worker at store in Nanaimo

Suspect became aggressive when confronted by loss prevention officer at Walmart, say RCMP

Ladysmith man shocked out of his seat after $50,000 Keno win

Larry Salmond plans to purchase a new RV with his winnings

Cowichan Performing Arts Centre streaming new short film tonight

Standing By has been created and performed by Cowichan-raised actor Nicole Ratjen.

Most Read