Canadian skeleton racer Mirela Rahneva third at world championship

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Mirela Rahneva joined an exclusive skeleton crew on Friday, becoming the 10th Canadian to win an individual world championship medal.

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The 34-year-old, who was born in Bulgaria but calls Ottawa home, slid to a bronze medal on the legendary track in St. Moritz, Switzerland; a venue widely considered the birthplace of all three sliding sports; skeleton, bobsleigh, and luge. Rahneva joins the likes of Ryan Davenport, Jon Montgomery, Duff Gibson, Mellisa Hollingsworth, Jeff Pain, Lindsay Alcock, Michelle Kelly, Elizabeth Vathje and Sarah Reid.

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“Canada has a great history of incredible sliders and those are all athletes that I look up to,” Rahneva told Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton’s Chris Dornan. “I still don’t think I live up to their history of incredible results, but maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet. I admire everything about each and every one of those sliders. It’s nice to know that all of the effort over the years has accumulated to being on this list of Canadian world championship medallists.”

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Rahneva’s four-run time of 4:34.41 left her just .83 seconds behind silver medalist Kimberley Bos of the Netherlands and .84 seconds from surprise gold medal winner Susanne Kreher of Germany, a junior-aged competitor, who clocked 4:33.57. Bos won the third and fourth runs over the two-day event and came up just an eyeblink short of gold.

Rahneva was thrilled with her bronze medal.

“The two world championship days were such a roller coaster. Right now, all I feel is sweet, sweet relief. It feels really good because I’ve been left off the podium in important races before where it could have happened, but things didn’t line up. I did everything possible to get this done. I had the right preparation. I brought my coach in. Everything I possibly could have needed was here.

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“It doesn’t feel real yet because it all happened so fast. I love St. Moritz. I’ve been living with this sole purpose of being here and doing well at these world championships and today, I thought I didn’t have a chance, and then I did, it is just insane.

“It just feels so good to slide here. I love it at St. Moritz. I think it is just the long straightaways and beautiful ice. It is a privilege to slide here,” added Rahneva. “You are sliding in the middle of the forest. It is very peaceful and quiet. You just really get in the moment because it is so quiet. You can just be a free person and slide, and really fly here.”

Rahneva finished fifth at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, but has been on something of a tear during this season. She won a race in Park City, Utah, finished second at Winterberg, Germany, and hasn’t been any worse than eighth in any of her six World Cup events this season.

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At the world championships, she was second overall after the first two runs, then fell to fifth place in the wake of a disappointing opening run on Friday. She needed to get her head back into the right space prior to the final trip down the 1,700-metre natural ice track that finishes in the town of Celerina.

“I was second off, and I think I just got really nervous,” Rahneva said of the third run. “I let it get to my head. I’ve been working a lot with my sports psych to manage the nerves. I acknowledged this race was important to me and I think the fear was greater to lose. I love this track so much. I wanted it so bad today that I think I just squeezed things so hard, and I should have been more gentle.”

Canadian teammate Jane Channell, a 34-year-old from North Vancouver, was in the bronze medal seat after the third run, but Rahneva wasn’t finished. She put down the third-fastest final trip and secured the medal. Channell finished sixth.

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“I wanted more. I knew I had it in me,” Channell said. “I let a skid get to me and couldn’t relax on my sled for the rest of the run. I made every mistake possible in my fourth run. I’m disappointed but it’s also my best ever result here. A sixth-place finish, tying my best result of this tough season, is something I’m proud of.”

Channell sits in eighth place in the overall World Cup standings with 810 points, while Rahneva is in second spot and ready to challenge for the overall title, with just two races remaining in Innsbruck, Austria and Sigulda, Latvia. Germany’s Tina Hermann is currently atop the standings with 1,253 points to Rahneva’s 1,147.

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