CALGARY — German luger Julia Taubitz earned her first World Cup win and Canada's Kim McRae claimed bronze Saturday on a Calgary track that defied its reputation as an easy slide.
On a day when some women struggled to control their sleds, or spilled off them and tumbled down the track, McRae continued the success of Canadian women in luge after Alex Gough's retirement slide prior to the races.
"It's incredible. I was just going for two consistent runs this morning," McRae said. "To be on the podium and be able to step in where she left off is incredible."
Gough, 31, is the most decorated luger in Canadian history. She was the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in the sport with a bronze in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
Gough owns six world championship medals in women's singles and team relay, as well as 27 career World Cup medals in women's luge.
After her farewell run as a forerunner, Gough watched McRae take the torch from her.
"I had every confidence in the world that any day of the week she can be right up there with those girls," Gough said. "She's an incredible slider and a really strong athlete."
McRae's bronze Saturday was her first World Cup medal in Calgary and the fourth of her career. She won bronze at the 2017 world championship and placed fifth in the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games.
The 26-year-old Calgarian is Canada's heir apparent in women's luge, but is racing a reduced schedule this winter to cram in nursing school at Mount Royal University.
McRae will race a World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., next Sunday week and January's world championship in Winterberg, Germany.
Olympic silver medallist Dajana Eitberger flipped off her sled on the German's second run Saturday, as did Viktoriia Demchenko of Russia. Latvia's Kendija Aparjode didn't make it to the bottom on her first pass.
Germany's Tatjana Huefner, the 2010 Olympic champion, hemorrhaged time on her first run and sat 14th heading into the second.
The WinSport track at Canada Olympic Park was the sliding venue for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
The track isn't considered difficult on the international circuit, but cold morning temperatures made for rock hard ice. Sled runners skidded instead of gripped.
McRae sat fourth after the first run and jumped onto the podium with a steady second pass.
"It was hard ice today," McRae said. "If you didn't have calmness going down the track, it really threw people off."
The 22-year-old Taubitz was hard-pressed to keep her spot on the powerhouse German women's team last winter, but opened this season with second-place results in both Innsbruck, Austria and Whistler, B.C.
The young German was euphoric to hold off teammate and runner-up Natalie Geisenberger, also the reigning Olympic champion, for Saturday's victory.
"I'm really surprised and happy," Taubitz said. "The cold temperatures, the sun in the kreisel (turn) was not so nice, so I think it was a difficult track."
Germany won the mixed relay ahead of runner-up United States and bronze medallists Austria. McRae, Reid Watts of Whistler, B.C., and the Calgary doubles team of Justin Snith and Tristan Walker were sixth.