Top Olympians to watch out for in Sochi

thumb Gilmore JunioThe 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have officially begun, and Canada has sent 221 athletes to compete. The 2010 Olympic games, held on home soil in Vancouver, were a huge success for the Canadian Olympic team: they won five bronze, seven silver and 14 gold medals. According to the official Canadian Olympic team website, Canada also recorded “an all-time high of 71 top-eight finishes, which included 23 fourth- and fifth-place finishes (including medals).”

Needless to say, Canada’s expectations are high for our athletes this year.

 Amongst the multitude of Canadians competing in Sochi, is a strong contingent of Calgarians predicted to be top contenders for medals in their respective sports. Although we recommend watching all events with Calgarian Olympians, the Calgary Journal has compiled a list of four great events to watch to get you started.

Luge team relay

Imagine hurtling down a track of ice at speeds upwards of 130 km/h with nothing between you and a nasty spill but a fiberglass sled. Many Calgarians can’t even reach that speed on Deerfoot Trail, but for the all-Calgary luge team heading to Sochi, it’s just another joy ride.

Luge RelayJustin Snith and Tristan Walker will anchor the all-Calgary Canadian luge relay team projected to earn a medal in Sochi.

Photo taken from Tristan Walker’s FacebookFor the first time, athletes will compete in a new luge relay competition, which was approved by the International Olympic Committee on April 6, 2011. The relay requires a female rider, male rider and one duo to each take a run down the track from the women’s starting gate. According to the official Sochi 2014 website, “at the finish each athlete must touch the special touch-pad, which automatically opens the in-run gate for the next team member.” The last team member to hit the touch pad determines the team’s time.

Alex Gough leads a talented squad that is expected to challenge for a medal in this new event; Gough will be accompanied by Samuel Edney, and the tandem team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith.

And it turns out, Canada isn’t too bad at the sport’s newest event, The team of Calgarians has already won silver in the World Championship last year in Whistler, B.C., along with a World Cup bronze won on the Sochi track last season.

One of the fastest events in the Games, Calgary’s luge relay team could be one of Canada’s best chances to obtain a medal.

The luge team relay will take place on Feb. 13. Be sure to check local TV listings for event coverage.

Skeleton racing

All four members of Canada’s Olympic skeleton team are connected to Alberta in one way or another. Eric Neilson was born in Lethbridge, Mellisa Hollingsworth was born in Lacombe, and both Sarah Reid and John Fairbairn call Calgary home.

SarahReid Skeleton copySarah Reid will compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in skeleton.

Photo by Max Shiletto/Calgary JournalThe Canadian skeleton team has been very successful in the past, picking up four medals in the past two Olympics, including gold medals in 2006 and 2010 in the men’s competition.

Fairbairn and Neilson will both vie to become the first Albertan to earn a medal in this year’s competition. On paper, Fairbairn represents Canada’s best hope for a medal. He is ranked No. 5 in the male skeleton international rankings, and Neilson is ranked No. 12.

Sarah Reid is also the highest ranked Canadian in the women’s international rankings at No. 12. Her most recent win was a bronze medal at the World Cup in Germany, and the 26-year-old will be making her Olympic debut in Sochi.

Mellisa Hollingsworth was the lone female to pick up a medal in 2006, finishing third place. Hollingsworth could be a contender for a medal – she has attained a top-five finish in each of the past three World Championships.

All four members of the team will be in action for their initial singles runs starting on Feb. 14.

Women’s bobsled

Calgarian Kaillie Humphries is in top form approaching the 2014 Sochi Games where she will attempt to defend her 2010 Olympic title. Fresh off a thrilling victory in the women’s World Cup in January, Humphries and partner Heather Moyse are out to continue Canada’s dominance on the women’s bobsled track.

“It’s going to be a difficult challenge,” Humphries said. “We’re going to really have to be able to go with the flow and just do the very best that we can. That’s all we can expect of ourselves.”

Humphries has already etched her name into the history books – her and racing partner Moyse became the first Canadian women to win gold in Olympic bobsled, racking up a series of track records along the way.

But this year’s Olympic Games will provide a challenge for Humphries, as she and Moyse compete on foreign soil without the support of massive hometown crowds behind them. As the 2014 Games commence, Humphries and Moyse will be a can’t-miss as they take on the best the world has to offer.

Women’s bobsled will take place on Feb. 18. Make sure to check local listings for event coverage.

Speed skating

Canada’s long-track speed skating team was quite successful on Richmond Olympic Oval ice four years ago in Vancouver, winning two gold and two bronze medals.

Calgarian Christine Nesbitt was one of the success stories of the 2010 Games, winning a gold medal for Canada in the 1,000-metre race

Gilmore JunioGilmore Junio will aim for gold in his Olympic debut. He is the No.8 ranked male speed skater in the 500 – metre category and is expected to be a medal threat.

Photo taken by Jessica Phillips/ Calgary JournalRanked No. 4 in the 1,000-metre World Cup event and No. 2 in the 1,500-metre World Cup event, Nesbitt, 28, could once again be a contender for a medal in Sochi. Nesbitt had even broken a world record in a race at the Calgary Olympic Oval in 2012, until it was broken last November. She will aim to defend her gold medal reign for the 1,000-metre skate on Feb. 13.

First-time Olympian Gilmore Junio will compete in the men’s 500-metre race in Sochi. Junio won a gold medal at the World Cup in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has climbed into the world top 10 in his category. He will hit the ice on Feb. 10.

Calgarian Anastasia Bucsis, 24, debuted in the 2010 Vancouver Games, finishing 34th in the women’s 500-metre race.

Since then, Bucsis has earned the second most amount of points in national competitions, just behind fellow Canadian Olympic teammate Nesbitt. Bucsis will compete in the women’s 500-metre on Feb. 11.

Calgary athletes competing and their Twitter handles:

Alpine Skiing
Trevor Philip @TrevorPhilp
Brad Spence @bradcspence
Jan Hudec @pandaHAUSofROCK

Nathan Smith

Kaillie Humphries @BobsledKaillie
Lascelles Brown
Chris Spring @BobTeamSpring

Freestyle Skiing
Roz Groenewoud @rozgroenewoud
Keltie Hansen @keltieh
Noah Bowman @NoahBowmanSki
Brady Leman @Lemanracing

Alex Gough @AlexGoughLuge
Kimberley McRae @KimMcRaeLuge
Arianne Jones @JonesLuge
Mitchell Malyk @MitchelMalyk
Justin Snith @justinsnith
Tristan Walker @TristanLuge
Sam Edney @samueledney
John Fennell @johncanluge

Sarah Reid @Skelly_Rider
John Fairbarn @JohnnyFairbairn
Eric Neilson @NeilsonEric

Ski Jumping
Atsucko Tanaka @Japanada01
Taylor Henrich @TayHenrich
Dusty Korek
MackenzieBoyd-Clowes @MackenskiBC
Trevor Morrice @Morriceosaurus
Erik Mitchell @EricJumper

Snowboard Cross
Chris Robanske @chrisrobanske

Speed Skating
Anastasia Bucsis @anastasure
Kaylin Irvine @AppositeKay
Gilmore Junio @cdnhappygilmore

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