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It was a first for Canada when 17-year-old Reid Watts overcame technical difficulties to secure bronze in the men’s singles at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
One would be forgiven for assuming that Canada has won Olympic medals in every winter event given their illustrious history in sport on snow and ice. But that is not the case.
Having picked up their first ever medal in ski jumping at the Innsbruck 2012 Winter YOG – a bronze in the team event – they came to Lillehammer yet to reach the podium in Nordic combined and, until this week, luge.
“I was very aware [that Canada had never won an Olympic medal in the sport] so I am really proud,” Watts said after receiving his bronze medal on Sunday (14 February) despite a troublesome start. “It’s been quite a day,” he said. “Before my first run the zipper on my shoe combusted.”
After being given 30 seconds to try and correct the problem he was told he had to go. The run was not his best but he still managed to finish in fifth place after 20 of the 22 lugers completed their first of two runs.
But his second run was superb. Only Kristers Aparjods from Latvia, the eventual winner, had a faster time.
“I knew that without my little technical difficulty I could move up a few spots, so I tried to stay calm and keep it as close to training as possible and just had fun,” Watts said.
Canadian fans, including his father, cheered him all the way down the track at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Centre. “Two years ago he laid down his goals and one of his short-term goals was to win a medal here. He’s managed to pull off his goal, which we are very impressed with and we are proud of him,” said Jim Watts, a director for Luge Canada, after his son’s performance.
As is often the case, after a long wait success came in twos. The day after finishing third in the men's singles, Watts saw his teammate Brooke Apshkrum take gold in the women's event.
Brooke Apshkrum sits up at the end of her gold-medal winning luge run. Photo: YIS / IOC Jon Buckle
Following on from three fourth-place finishes in luge at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Watts's and Apshkrum's breakthrough marks a significant boost for the sport. “It’s extra special for me and very good for our whole Luge Canada program,” said dad Jim. “We have been close to medals so many times [in recent years] at the Games and to have our first of many to come is a fantastic feeling.”
Written by Ricardo Chambers, IOC Young Reporter