Olympic Luge Medallists Alex Gough and Sam Edney Call it a Career
CALGARY—The Queen and King of Canadian luge have decided to call it a career after having rewritten the sport’s history.
Sliding into retirement as Canada’s most decorated luge athletes, Alex Gough and Sam Edney captured the hearts of all Canadians on their incredible drive to bring credibility to their sport in Canada – evolving the program from being mere participants content with wearing the Canadian team uniform into Olympic medallists.
The Calgary-based duo marked an official end to their careers Saturday on the track they grew up on at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park. Gough took one final run down the 14-corner icy chute while forerunning the women’s Viessmann Luge World Cup race. Edney was the first one at the finish line to greet her with friends, family and teammates who are ready to carry the torch on the track to 2022 and beyond. The Olympic medallists sealed their careers by toasting a Canadian brew at the finish – a nod to the German roots of their sport, with a very distinct Canadian flair.
“I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish in our little sport, but none of it would have been possible without all of the incredible people who were a part of this memorable journey to get here,” said Gough, who became the first Canadian ever to win an Olympic medal in luge when she claimed the bronze in women’s singles, just days before teaming up with Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith to win a silver in the team relay.
Two of the most respected athletes on the international circuit who are compassionate, selfless, willing to challenge obstacles and exude a passion for sport, fair play and a commitment to excellence, Gough and Edney were trailblazers for luge in Canada since joining the national program in 2005. The track was long and gradual, loaded with devastation and celebratory moments, but they retire having rewritten the Canadian record books. The first two Canadians ever to have won a World Cup luge race, they leave having firmly established themselves as two of the world’s best athletes ever to have hopped on a luge sled.
“I never could have imagined the success we have had as a team – from where our program was when I first joined the national team to where it is now is something, we should all be very proud of. I hope our results can inspire the next generation to think ‘why not me?’ and develop into the next great Canadian luge athletes,” added Gough.
Gough’s remarkable track to the international podium began in 2010 when she claimed the bronze medal at a World Cup race in Winterberg, Germany. What unfolded next was once considered unthinkable.
She became the first Canuck to win a World Cup race in 2011 when she accomplished the feat in Paramonovo, Russia. Her victory ended the Germans’ 105 consecutive race-winning streak on the World Cup. Gough added two more golden chapters in her story – becoming the first Canadian to win a luge race on home ice – Calgary 2012 and in Whistler in 2016. She is also the first Canadian to win two World Championship bronze medals in the sport. (2011 Cesana, Italy; and 2013 Whistler, B.C.).
Her impressive resume includes 27 individual and 16 team relay World Cup medals, the two individual and four team relay World Championship medals, in addition to her two Olympic medals. The story of her Olympic achievement was even greater following two heartbreaking fourth-place finishes at the Sochi Games in 2014.
“When I got into luge I had no aspirations of going to the Olympics – it was just a new, fun sport to do to stay active through the winter that evolved into this amazing journey that I have had. So, winning not one but two Olympic medals is beyond anything I set out to do, and allowed me to live a dream that developed over the course of my career,” said Gough.
“I knew I needed to get back for another go at an Olympic medal in 2018. I put all the drive I had into giving my best last February. Nothing can beat the feelings I had in PyeongChang – the first medal, the story of coming full circle from Sochi when we were so close and then getting to experience it all again in the relay with the team who has become my second family and such an integral party of my journey was the cherry on top. I will never have the right words to describe what it means to me to stand on the Olympic podium with Sam, Tristan and Justin. We went through so much together and I’m so honoured and grateful to share that medal with them forever.”
The Gough family first heard about the sport from Edney’s parents, but it was Edney who eventually fed off Gough’s successes which guided him to a historic career of his own.
“Alex’s success was a breakout moment for our team. It showed we were doing the right things and gave all Canadian luge athletes the belief we, too, can win a medal,” said Edney. “I had a great group of buddies on the team with me, and we all knew we were doing the right things to be able to compete. Breaking things down with our coaches, we knew we were on the right track and it would pay off.
“I’m happy I took some time to reflect on my career before making it official. To look back at where it started as a young teenager with dreams, then to follow a career that had so many highs and lows and turns, and to now realize those dreams have come true is really special. It was a wild ride,” added Edney.
The leader of the men’s squad over the last eight years, Edney became just the second Canadian male ever to stand on the men’s individual luge World Cup podium. His breakthrough came in 2014 at home in Calgary when he also became the first Canadian male to win a World Cup race in the sport – just months removed from the near podium finish in Sochi.
“That win was a big moment for me. I thought Sochi was our chance, and when it didn’t come to fruition, I thought I’d come back to Calgary, maybe retire that next season. That race proved to me we had done everything right for Sochi and (I) was in a position to compete, but things just didn’t align,” added Edney.
“Winning at home in Calgary gave me the validation to continue with the sport. It gave me what I needed to refocus and push for another four years. I’m thankful that happened because I was ready to say good-bye and that win gave me new life.”
In addition to being a key sled in the team relay where he celebrated 15 World Cup and three World Championship medals, Edney went on to become the first Canadian male ever to win a World Cup luge medal outside of the country when he slid into bronze on the PyeongChang track in 2017. He also added a silver at the World Cup race in Calgary last year in his final preparations for the 2018 Games where he put a silver lining to his fairytale career.
“PyeongChang was storybook. It was such a whirlwind for us and the emotional build-up leading to the Olympics was crazy,” said Edney referring to the 2014 Olympic team relay result which was upgraded to bronze when two Russians were stripped of their medals for alleged doping. It was then dropped back to fourth when the Russians had that decision overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport just days before the PyeongChang Games.
“I’ll never be able to put all of it into words. It was just huge. We knew we were ready for that moment. We had done everything right. It was our time and we did it. It allows me to leave with such a great feeling of satisfaction.”
Despite all of the medals, it is being named to the Canadian Olympic Team four times that he will remember most. Edney retires with the best men’s singles result at an Olympic Winter Games when he was sixth in 2018. He also finished 11th in Sochi 2014; seventh in Vancouver 2010; and 21st in Torino 2006.
“Being named to the Olympic team was the moment I always dreamt about as a child. Making each one of those teams allowed me to live that dream. It was validation of all the hard work and knowing that I was a part of Team Canada was amazing every time,” said Edney.
After taking her sled into the Canadian Team’s locker-room for the final time, Gough remembered the army of coaches and supporters who helped her and Edney along this memorable journey to the top of the international luge world.
“I’m so grateful to my mom for signing me up to try this unique sport and starting me on this crazy ride,” said Gough. “Never could I have accomplished any of this without Mom, Dad and the rest of my family’s incredible support over the years. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this journey. I leave with a big thank-you to the entire luge family and everyone who has supported me along the way while sharing this unforgettable journey.”
The Canadian Luge Association is a not-for-profit organization responsible for governing the sport of luge across the country. With the financial backing of from the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, the Canadian Luge Association safely recruits and develops the nation’s current and future high-performance luge athletes with the goal of regularly climbing onto the international podium. For more information on the Canadian Luge Association, please visit us at www.luge.ca on the Internet.