PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Alex Gough won Canada’s first-ever Olympic luge medal Tuesday, grabbing bronze in the women’s singles race at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Competing at her fourth Olympics, the Calgary native finished with a combined four-run time of three minutes 5.64 seconds.
A disappointing fourth in Sochi four years ago, Gough had to endure some anxious moments before securing her historic medal. Gough stood third when German Tatjana Huefner, who had been in second, began her final run.
But a mistake by the German pushed the Canadian on to the podium.
Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger captured her second consecutive gold medal in three minutes 5.232, seconds while compatriot Dajana Eitberger was second in 3:05.599. Gough followed in 3:05.644.
“Elated. Just so over the moon,” Gough said. “Especially to have that gut-wrenching feeling of being behind (Eitberger) and probably in a fourth spot again and to have that flip around on me and be suddenly in a medal spot is so amazing.”
German Natalie Geisenberger captured her second consecutive gold medal in 3:05.232 while compatriot Tatjana Huefner was second in 3:05.599.
Gough sat third after Monday night’s first two runs with a combined time of 1:32.645 to put her just 0.191 seconds back of Geisenberger at the Olympic Sliding Centre in the South Korean mountains.
Gough, 30, kept hold of that position through Tuesday’s third run of 46.425 seconds, 0.336 seconds back of Geisenberger, and just 0.017 seconds behind Huefner for second.
She was unable to get any closer after clocking 46.574 seconds on her fourth trip down the track, but will still go down as the first Canadian luger to step on an Olympic podium.
Calgary’s Kimberley McRae wound up fifth in 3:05.878 at her second Olympics, while Brooke Apshkrum, also of Calgary, was 13th in 3:07.102 at the 18-year-old’s first Games.
The sliders have been wary of Curve 9 at the wind-swept venue, a tricky stretch of track that cost German great Felix Loch a chance at a record-tying third consecutive men’s Olympic gold medal when he skidded halfway through Sunday’s final run and wound up a stunning fifth.
But there weren’t many issues on this night among the contenders hurdling themselves down the icy track feet-first at speeds of more than 120 kilometres an hour.
Gough was just 0.433 seconds behind American Erin Hamlin for bronze in Sochi, while McRae was 0.75 seconds short of reaching the podium in fifth.
Gough, men’s singles luger Sam Edney, and doubles sliders Tristan Walker and Justin Snith were also a frustrating fourth in the team relay four years ago in Russia.
The quartet was bumped up to bronze for what would have been Canada’s first-ever Olympic luge medal in December after two Russian competitors were among 40 athletes from that country stripped of their 2014 results and handed lifetime bans by the International Olympic Committee for alleged doping violations.
But citing insufficient evidence, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned that punishment for 28 of those athletes, including lugers Albert Demchenko and Tatiana Ivanova.
Fourth in the overall World Cup standings this season, Gough has won 25 career medals on the circuit. She’s also made the podium five times at the world championships, including two third-place finishes in singles (2011 and 2013).
Gough became the first Canadian luger to win gold in a World Cup race when she snapped a 13-year, 105-race German winning streak in February 2011.
McRae won bronze at last year’s worlds, and was 10th on the World Cup circuit this year.
Walker and Snith are compete in the doubles race Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s team relay. Edney was sixth in the men’s race.