Airdrie luger Colton Clarke has enjoyed a banner start to the 2018-19 luge season – winning his first Canadian senior title Oct. 20, in Whistler, B.C.
Clarke finished with a two-run time of 1:41.75, edging 19-year-old Whistler native Reid Watts, who finished 12th at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Watts’ two-run time in Whistler was 1:41.902, just 152 thousandths of a second behind the Airdronian.
Clarke, who turned 17 the week after winning the national title, said he went into the competition with an open mind.
“Going into the race, I was thinking I just wanted two clean runs,” he said. “I didn’t put too much stress or pressure on myself to perform.
“I just went down the track focused on doing as best as I can.”
The mentality paid dividends – Clarke posted the fastest first-run time of the competition at 50.97 seconds.
“Obviously, after the first run, I was very excited to be in first,” he said. “Then, I was just thinking, as long as I have another clean run, I’m golden.”
With the pressure off, the Airdronian was able to put in another strong performance on his second run. Clarke’s second slide down the track was even better than his first, clocking in at 50.78 seconds.
“When I came down to the bottom, there was the first place next to my name, so I was super excited about that,” he said.
With this promising start, Clarke said he will spend the first half of the 2018-19 season competing for the Canadian senior national team. He’s slated to participate in two competitions against athletes typically aged 20 and up on the senior World Cup circuit, which will include stops in Iglis, Austria, Nov. 24, and Winsport Canada Olympic Park, in Calgary, Dec. 7 to 8.
His goal for the World Cup in Austria is to crack the top 25, he said, and to do even better when he competes in Calgary – his home track.
Following his debut at the senior World Cup level, Clarke said he will re-join the junior World Cup circuit for the rest of the season, where he will compete against lugers closer to his age.
“I’ll ideally make the podium for every single junior world cup – that’s my goal,” he said.
Clarke trains for his sport twice a day, while balancing his classes at George McDougall High School, where he is in Grade 11. Considering his first national title came while he was only 16, Clarke said his promising start this year bodes well for his future in the sport.
“It shows me I’ve come a long way,” said Clarke, who has participated in luge since he was 10 years old. “When I was younger, I wasn’t the best slider – I crashed more than the average person. I had some big ups and downs with luge.
“Looking back and seeing how far I’ve come is the biggest thing that’s shocked me. If I continue to train and compete at this pace, I can achieve great things – and I have a great chance of achieving my goals.”