Airdrie luger Colton Clarke enjoyed another milestone in his burgeoning career Dec. 13, 2019, finishing 25th at the Viessman Luge World Cup in Whistler, B.C.
Competing against 31 of the best lugers in the world, Clarke finished with a two-run time of 1:40.919, reaching speeds higher than 142 kilometres per hour.
“I slid, had fun and had two clean runs to finish 25th, so I was pretty happy about that,” Clarke said.
After failing to qualify for the first two events of the senior World Cup circuit this season, the 18-year-old – one of just two teenagers at the competition – qualified for Whistler by finishing 14th out of 26 competitors in the Nation’s Cup Dec. 12, 2019.
Clarke has spent the first half of the 2019-20 season training and competing with Canada’s senior men’s luge national team, rather than with the junior team, with whom he still has two years of eligibility.
“I travelled with [the senior team], did some training in Germany and Austria and then had a competition in [Innsbruck] Austria and Lake Placid, New York,” he said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t end up qualifying for those World Cups, but I still had the experience of being with the senior team, and I’ll be with them for the second half of the season as well.”
Making the grade against grown men has come with a steep learning curve for the George McDougall High School senior, but Clarke said he enjoys the higher level of competition.
“It’s more professional, in a way, and you can really see how you compare against the best of the best,” he said.
“It does show me I have a long ways to go, but it’s fun because you get to go from the top starts and compete against Olympians. It’s just really cool – you get the TV crew, if you get onto the World Cup, and you feel more important with the seniors.”
Clarke acknowledged his familiarity with the Whistler track played a key role in his strong showing at the competition. As Canada’s only luge facility, following the shuttering of the track at Calgary’s WinSport in 2018, Clarke has logged plenty of sliding time at the Whistler venue.
It was also the site of one of his most significant career milestones to date, when he won his first senior men’s national title in October 2018.
“No matter where you go, if it’s Calgary or Whistler, there’s a home-track advantage,” he said. “I’m so familiar with those tracks that I can just relax and enjoy it, focusing more on [my form] instead of worrying about making it down the track. I can do it out of instinct.
“Plus, I love the track in Whistler. Being able to compete on a track that I love, it definitely gives me a little bit of a boost in the standings.”
Clarke did not have much time to rest following the competition, as he returned to Europe Dec. 27, 2019 for six to eight weeks of further Team Canada competitions and training in Germany and Latvia.
As he continues to slide against the best lugers in the world, Clarke said his goal is to take a positive mentality into his races.
“I can’t focus on the results, because you can’t control the results,” he said. “You can only control how good your run is, so I’ve just focused on that, and it seems to be working well for me this year.”
He added his long-term goal is to qualify for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, which will take place in Beijing when he is 20 years old.
“It’s a bit young to expect much – I think most people podium at the Olympics between 24 and 26,” he said. “But it would be a really good age to start getting the Olympic experience and start competing on that scale [and] learning what it’s about.”