Canadian doubles lugers Walker and Snith place 5th at Winter Games
Tristan Snith and Justin Walker of Canada take a curve on their first run during the men's doubles luge final at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 14, 2018 8:44AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 14, 2018 9:42AM EST
PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of -- Tristan Walker and Justin Snith missed out on an Olympic medal in doubles luge by a toenail four years ago.
Despite dropping one spot lower at the Pyeongchang Games, the result was a lot easier to swallow.
The 26-year-old Canadians wound up fifth in Wednesday's race with a combined two-run time of one minute 32.369 seconds.
Walker, of Cochrane, Alta., and Snith, of Calgary, were a gut-wrenching fourth at the 2014 Games in Sochi, finishing a razor-thin 0.05 seconds back of third.
With an even stronger field in South Korea, they knew it would take something special to get on the podium.
"Sochi was definitely tougher because we felt like we blew that medal away," said Snith. "Here we weren't quite in the game.
"It's one position worse, but we're not here for fourth or fifth."
Germany's Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt defended their Olympic gold from 2014 with a time of 1:31.697. Austria's Peter Penz and Georg Fischler took silver in 1:31.785, while Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken grabbed bronze in 1:31.987.
Walker and Snith were fourth following their first run, clocking in at 46.134 seconds to sit 0.203 seconds back of third on the 16-curve Olympic Sliding Centre track that measures just over 1,200 metres. But they fell off the pace after finishing with the sixth-fastest time on their second run (46.235 seconds).
"We had a couple mistakes up top, they compounded down below," said Snith. "I talked to the Austrian guys who were fourth and they said they did the same thing, but the time got us more."
"There was a glimmer of hope there on the first run for maybe making it up to the podium," added Walker. "But for that to happen, one of those three powerhouses would have had to make a huge mistake, and they all slid very cleanly."
Canadian coach Wolfgang Staudinger said he was happy with the performance following some hiccups in practice on the course that possesses a tricky stretch beginning in Curve 9 -- one that has already jumped up to bite some of the world's best at these Games.
"They pulled it together after some terrible training," said the no-nonsense German. "Unfortunately not good enough for third. Fifth is not a bad place in that field."
Calgary's Alex Gough, who also just missed out on the podium with a fourth in Russia four years ago, won Canada's first-ever Olympic medal in luge on Tuesday when she secured a dramatic bronze in the women's singles race.
Canada's third of three maddening fourth-place showings in Sochi came in the team relay when Walker, Snith, Gough and men's singles racer Sam Edney combined to place just one tenth of a second back of bronze.
The foursome was bumped up to third for what would have been the country's first luge medal in December after two Russian competitors were among dozens of athletes from that country stripped of their 2014 results and banned for life by the International Olympic Committee for alleged doping violations.
But the punishment for 28 of those athletes, including lugers Albert Demchenko and Tatiana Ivanova, was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which cited insufficient evidence.
Edney, also of Calgary, was sixth in Sunday's men's race.
Competing at their third Olympics, Walker and Snith wouldn't say whether or not they plan to retire after Pyeongchang. Edney has already said he's on his way out the door, while Gough indicated she will probably follow her teammate into the sunset.
"Flip a coin because I don't know," said Snith.
The focus for the Canadians now turns to Thursday's team relay where they have a legitimate shot at getting Canada's second Olympic medal in three days after being shut out the previous 50 years.
"They had two good runs, two good Curve 9s, which should give them confidence and a boost," said Staudinger. "If they just do a normal performance in the team relay like this, I would say our chances are pretty good."