Olympic Games Replay: Sliding onto the podium in Pyeongchang

CBC

All of sport is on hold at the present as the entire world deals with Covid-19 and the spread of the coronavirus. Until activity on international fields of play resumes, athletes and sport fans alike anxiously watch and wait from the sidelines with the rest of the global population.

This Saturday, March 28, will be the second of five weeks of programming at CBC Sports which will showcase some of the most memorable moments from recent editions of the Olympics.

Episode #2 of "Olympic Games Replay" features the sliding sports, in particular bobsleigh and luge from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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They turned out to be competitions where Canadians excelled at the Alpensia Sliding Centre and produced four of the country's record total of 29 medals at a single edition of the Olympic Winter Games.

WATCH | Olympic Games Replay: Bobsleigh and Luge

On the bobsleigh track Canadian pilot Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C. combined with brakeman Alexander Kopacz of London, Ont., to produce a thrilling dead heat with the powerful Germans led by Francesco Friedrich. The tie for the gold medal was rare considering each sled made four trips down the track and the combined time determined the victor.

But it wasn't the first time it had happened in Olympic competition. Twenty years earlier at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan Canada's Pierre Lueders and Dave MacEachern shared the gold medal with Italy after tying pilot Gunther Huber and brakeman Antonio Tartgalia.

"It's always great to call a medal for Canada. The first gold medal call of my career was the 1998 Olympic tie between Canada and Italy," said Mark Connolly, CBC's play-by-play caller for sliding at Pyeongchang 2018.

File/AFP via Getty Images
File/AFP via Getty Images

"When it happened again two decades later between Canada and Germany, I was much better prepared. Calling two golden bobsleigh ties involving Canada is certainly a career highlight."

In women's bobsleigh competition, Canadian pilot Kaillie Humphries teamed up with brakeman and Olympic hurdler Phylicia George, who was competing at her first edition of the Winter Games to win bronze. For Humphries, it was a third career medal after winning gold at both Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 with brakeman Heather Moyse.

"I have to say after watching Phylicia compete in the Summer Games, I was really hoping to see her get on that Olympic podium for Canada," said 2010 Olympic silver medallist and CBC Sports bobsleigh analyst Helen Upperton.

"On a personal note, it is always such a privilege to call races where Canada reaches the podium. I was in Korea with my 11-month-old daughter Florence who was there cheering on her dad, Jesse Lumsden, at his final Olympic Games. It was a really amazing few weeks."

At Pyeongchang 2018, Canadian athletes finally reached the podium in the sport of luge. The discipline has been on the Olympic program since the 1964 Games in Innsbruck, Austria and over the years lugers from this country had battled their share of adversity.

Kevin Light Photography
Kevin Light Photography

For a time, lacking sustainable funding for training, they raced with "FOR SALE" signs on their helmets to attract sponsorships dollars. Then in 2014, at the Sochi Olympics, a fourth place Canadian finish in the team relay looked like it would become a bronze medal because of a Russian doping infraction. But the IOC decision was appealed and the medal was returned to Russia just prior to competition in Pyeongchang.

At the Games in South Korea, however, the Canadians left no doubt. Four-time Olympian and the country's most decorated international luger, Alex Gough of Calgary, broke through to win an historic first Canadian Olympic luge medal with bronze in the women's event.

Then the group of veterans — which included senior statesman Sam Edney, doubles lugers Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, as well as Gough — roared home to take silver in the team relay.

"The 2018 Games were a crowning achievement for luge in Canada," said two-time Olympian and colour analyst Jeff Christie, who sits on the Canadian Olympic Committee's Athlete's Commission.

"As an athlete I had always dreamed and worked towards being able to win Canada's first luge medal which I was not able to achieve. To be able to call races where those medal performances happened and bring to light the impact of my friends' performances was an unforgettable moment."

For Canadian lugers, the medals had been a long time coming and when they were secured some of the most emotional celebrations for athletes from this country ensued in Pyeongchang.

Sweet, sliding success in South Korea will long be remembered in Canadian Olympic history.

The second edition of "Olympic Games Replay" features three hours of bobsleigh and luge competition from Pyeongchang 2018. Saturday, March 28 at 3 p.m. ET it will be streamed on CBCSports.ca as well as air across the CBC television network. Check local listings for the time in your region.

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