Edge student places seventh at jr. World Cup event
It’s not the most conventional sport for a 16-year-old to choose, but three years ago, it was the sport of choice for Noelle Jones.
The Edge school student was only 13 when she decided to follow in her sister’s footsteps and take up luge.
Her sister, Arianne Jones is a member of the Canadian senior national luge team.
Jones grew up in Calgary playing every sport she could.
She danced, skied, swam and played volleyball until luge came calling thanks to watching Arianne, who began competing in the sport after taking part in the Calgary Olympic Park’s (COP) summer camps.
“I always went to her races and I thought it was so cool to see their atmosphere,” Noelle Jones said.
“I decided I wanted to try something that was different and unique and I fell in love with it.”
Her first year competing was an introduction to what it takes to hurl oneself down an icy track on thin blades at hundreds of kilometres an hour. It’s a sport that makes most spectators nervous just by watching it, but Jones said the speed and the danger are second nature to her now.
“You never get used to the adrenaline,” she said. “I’ve done hundreds of runs and it’s still really cool. It’s such a rush and such a high going as fast as you do. I’ve had moments where I’ve been nervous, but once you have more experience, it goes away.”
The last two years of Jones’ career have been full of provincial and domestic races.
Jones rotates between competing at the sliding tracks in Calgary, Whistler and Park City, Utah, all of which have hosted recent Winter Olympics. During the winter, she trains on the track at COP twice a day and in the Edge gym for three to four hours every day.
When she decided to focus on becoming an elite slider last year, Jones transferred to the Edge School for Athletes in Springbank. She knew a flexible school schedule would be necessary to allow her to maintain her studies while allowing her to travel and train.
“It’s a big travelling commitment,” she said.
“I knew that going to a regular school with regular hours would be difficult. I’ve been able to form my classes to fit with my training schedule and being able to have teachers willing to fit me in has been great.”
By this time next season, Jones is hoping she will have attained a spot on the Canadian junior national team, which is the first major goal of her career.
It would mean a five-week selection process and most of the winter spent across the pond in Europe competing on the junior World Cup circuit.
There are sliding tracks all over Europe, but the main ones are concentrated in Germany, Austria and Russia.
In the meantime, Jones has been paying her dues in the gym and on the track to make sure she’s strong enough and fast enough to secure that spot next winter.
Luge isn’t a sport that comes naturally to a majority of the Canadian population, but Jones didn’t have to look far for a role model. Apart from her sister, Jones has had a front row seat to watch the rise of fellow slider Alex Gough, who is Arianne’s teammate on the Canadian senior team.
Gough finished 18th at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and has 10 World Cup medals to her name.
Her most recent was a bronze at the Luge World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., Feb. 8.
Gough broke onto a podium that has been largely dominated by the Germans in past years. That, coupled with her international accolades, have been an inspiration for Jones.
For the past few years, Jones has been mostly sliding close to home, but she got a taste of competing against some of the world’s best lugers at the 2013 Junior World Cup, which was held at the COP, Jan. 20 and 25.
“It wasn’t my best race,” said Jones, who fell from third to seventh after crashing in her second race and missing the podium.
“It didn’t turn out as I expected, but bad races happen. You just have to accept it and move on.
“It was still an amazing week getting to train with the other nations.”
While making the junior national team is the goal she’s focused on right now, there is another aspiration out on the horizon.
“Making the Olympics would be an amazing experience,” she said. “It’s on my long term radar.”