Germans, Austrians sweep medals at luge World Cup in Whistler

Germany’s Felix Loch finished 0.099 seconds behind Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl

Tristan Walker and Justin Snith of Canada take a practice run during the doubles luge training at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Veteran Canadian lugers Justin Snith and Tristan Walker are finding the job of mentoring the next generation of athletes a little bit difficult to accept. (Michael Sohn/The Associated Press)

Track records were smashed Friday as German and Austrian lugers swept the medals at the latest World Cup event in Whistler, B.C.

Austrian Wolfgang Kindl captured gold in the men’s singles with a combined two-run time of one minute, 39.774 seconds.

The 30-year-old said he loves competing on the Whistler track because it’s flatter at the top, giving him a unique advantage.

“I’m not the fast-start guy, so it’s a bit of a special victory for me today,” he said, explaining that he’s better at the areodynamic aspects of the sport so he can pick up speed later on in a race.

“I was just feeling confident on the sled today, just everything was perfect.”

Kindl also broke the track record for men’s singles with a 49.837-second run. The previous record of 50.109 seconds was set in December 2016.

Germany’s Felix Loch finished 0.099 seconds behind Kindl, good enough for a silver medal. Reinhard Egger of Austria took bronze with a time of 1:39.901.

Reid Watts was the highest-placing Canadian, finishing 22nd after a disappointing second run.

“I was at the start, feeling good, really motivated to push for a top-10. But just instantly, right off the top, had that left drift and that just set me off,” said the 19-year-old.

“Huge mistake and from there, at the top, there’s no hope for gaining that speed at the bottom.”

The Whistler native was competing in front of friends and family on a track that holds a special place for him.

Ten years ago this week, Watts tried luge for the very first time at the sliding centre.

“It’s really something. It’s really incredible how far I’ve come,” said the young athlete, who placed 12th in the event at the Winter Olympics last February.

Friday’s competition was also special for German luger Toni Eggert.

The 30-year-old climbed back to the top of the podium in the doubles event less than seven weeks after breaking his leg in a training accident.

Eggert and his partner Sascha Benecken took gold with a combined two-run time of 1:16.691.

Winning so soon after the accident was special, Eggert said.

He attributed his climb back to the track to good rehab, saying he was able to get around with a walking cast just three weeks after he was injured.

German teams swept the doubles medals on Friday, with Robin Johannes Gueke and David Gamm coming in second and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt winning the bronze.

Wendl and Arlt also shattered the track record with a 38.292-second run. The previous record was 38.542, set in February 2013.

Canadians Tristan Walker and Justin Snith took fifth place with a combined time of one minute, 16.875 seconds.

Finishing off the podium was “a little disappointing,” Walker said, but he noted that the team is still looking to adjust to some new equipment.

At the first World Cup event of the season in Austria last week, the Canadians placed 12th. Walker said the adjustments they made in Whistler were a little bit too conservative, costing them time in their first run.

“We’re trying to find a balance. We kind of went too far the opposite way on our equipment set up than we were last week,” he said.

The three-time Olympian said this season is about finding the best way to work with their new set up.

“It’s a long ways away from an Olympics, so it’s not too much of a worry right now,” he said.

The Canadian pair said they were happy to be competing on home soil.

A few dozen spectators lined the end of the track, including several who waved Canadian flags and cheered loudly as Walker and Snith came down the track.

“We wish the result was a little bit better here today,” Snith said. “Here’s hoping we get what we want next week (on the circuit’s next stop in Calgary).”

The Whistler event is the second stop on this year’s World Cup tour, and will continue Saturday with women’s singles and the team relay events.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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