Managing Distraction to make Olympic History
It’s normal for athletes to feel a letdown in the season after an Olympic Games, but the Canadian Luge Team had been working through something akin to grief.
The roller-coaster of emotion of finishing fourth three times, along with a fifth-place finish, falling just short of winning Canada’s first Olympic medal in the sport wasn’t easy to shake off in their return to Canada.
The team took little solace in what was by far Canada’s best performance in Olympic luge. It was clear they suffered from the Olympic hang-over, which was hard and heavy.
But the reality is – life goes on.
Led by veterans Alex Gough and Sam Edney, the band of Canadian luge sliders did up their chin straps, hopped on the sleds and continued to chase the World Cup and World Championship podiums around the world…not to mention their Olympic moment.
Despite celebrating periodic successes, the black cloud from Sochi lingered over the team with the biggest scandal in Olympic history exposing the Russians for widespread cheating through a state-sanctioned doping system that included swapping dirty samples for clean ones through a hole in the wall at the anti-doping lab at the Games.
Exposing that scam is what led to the Canadian Luge Relay Team being told – two days after they were named to the 2018 Olympic team – they had a bronze medal from the 2014 Games coming to them because the Russian silver medallists had taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Training when hearing the news, the team gave a high-five to each other and continued their preparation on what was truly important – achieving their goals in PyeongChang.
Or so they thought.
Shock waves roared through the Canadian camp days before the 2018 Games began when the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the International Olympic Committee’s punishment of some athletes, including the two Russian luge athletes, putting the medal from Canada back in doubt.
Trying to let it go, the team just could not. Athletes voiced their opinions on social media, sparking international media requests.
Recognizing their focus on performance at the 2018 Games was at risk, Chris and the management team at the Canadian Luge Association, called a team meeting to develop a plan: block the distraction, rally together and finish the race!
The team also agreed to have veteran slider, Sam Edney, open the team’s media conference at the PyeongChang Games – the first media event by any Canadian sport – by addressing the Russian situation with a powerful statement. Sam delivered a compelling speech around fair play, asked media to respect their preparation and no further discussion will be had on the situation until after their competition.
The team’s true statement was made on the track!
First with Alex Gough capturing the hearts of the nation with an electrifying bronze medal triumph in the women’s singles race, and then the same four Canadian athletes who the Russians cheated out of a medal in Sochi, finally had the moment they dreamt of every night for the last four years. Without a shadow of a doubt – they won an Olympic silver medal in the team relay.
A team medal is particularly fitting for this band of sliders because that was truly a team effort in the best sense of the word on and off the track.