Luge Canada announced the roster for this season’s World Cup team on Oct. 27. The team includes a good mix of returning athletes as well as rookies eager to make their mark ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, like Whistler’s Natalie Corless.
“I am so excited. It was definitely a tough preseason; we did our selection races at a track that I’d never been to, so I kind of had to step it up right off the bat and show that I could adapt to the training, which I did, and I’m pretty happy with how the selection races went,” she said. “It’s going to be my first year on the World Cup circuit, and I’m going to be one of the youngest competitors, but I’m just really happy to have the opportunity to prove myself against the best in the world now.”
With the Olympics coming up quick, Corless, who used to spend a large majority of her time racing in the doubles category, moved to Calgary this summer to train as a single slider in hopes of making the World Cup team due to there being no Women’s Doubles category at the Olympics.
While Corless achieved what she had set out to, unfortunately her long-time friend and doubles partner, Caitlyn Nash, missed the cut and the two will be spending the season apart for the first time in five years.
“That’s really tough for me. We’ve kind of been training and competing together for the last five years,” said Corless. “So it’s kind of tough to be taking that step on my own. But at the same time, I know we’re both going to be doing great things this year. She’s still going to have some great opportunities, so as tough as it is, I think we’ll be all right.”
But despite the unfortunate setback for her teammate, Corless is looking ahead to her upcoming schedule with her eyes on qualifying for the Olympics.
And right there by her side throughout the journey will be Pemberton’s Trinity Ellis returning for her third season on the World Cup team at just 19 years old.
The team recently arrived in China where they will be able to practice on the Olympic track 80 kilometres north of Beijing for a week before the World Cup circuit kicks off on the same track on Nov. 20.
Despite not having seen the track yet as they are currently being quarantined in their hotel awaiting the latest test results for members of other national teams who previously tested positive for COVID-19, both Corless and Ellis agree that just being in China with the chance to slide on the Olympic track in Yanqing for the first time is adding to their anticipation for this season.
“It’s bringing a lot of excitement. It’s a track unlike any other that I’ve ever seen or slid on,” said Corless. “And I think having everyone in the same boat of having to learn the track at the same time as all the other nations, I think is going to be a really awesome learning experience for everyone to have and kind of figure out this new Olympic track.”
While Ellis is equally excited for her chance to slide on the Olympic track and compete for her chance to qualify for the Olympics, she’s also just happy to get back to a full travel schedule after the COVID-19-interrupted season last year, even if it means she’ll be away from home for nearly five months.
“We didn’t get any international racing and were just sliding in Whistler last year,” she said. “So I was really missing that and I’m really just excited to get back to competition and kind of just focusing on taking it race by race and competing the best I can and then hopefully that will end up with me qualifying for the Olympics at the end of all this.”
According to Ellis, the biggest advantage working in her favour in her bid to make her first Olympics is the experience she’s gained over the past few seasons training and competing with some of the world’s best.
“I think I’ve grown up a little bit. In the last couple of years, I’ve kind of realized how much I’ve gained just from the environment of the team and having those mentors like Justin [Snith] and Tristan [Walker],” said Ellis. “I think it’s a really valuable relationship I have with them. Just being friends, but also being able to ask questions and advice and just have that bit of leadership role on the team.”
After the first World Cup event at the Olympic track in China, the team will be heading to Sochi, Russia for a double World Cup event at the end of November and start of December. In total, there are nine stops on the World Cup circuit before the Olympics begin with the last stop in Switzerland on Jan. 22 and 23.