Canada’s Mirela Rahneva Wins First Ever World Championship Medal Sliding to Bronze in St. Moritz
ST. MORITZ, Sui.—Canada’s Mirela Rahneva did it!
The head-first skeleton slider captured her first World Championship medal, winning the bronze at the birthplace of the sliding sports in St. Moritz, Switzerland on Friday.
"The two World Championship days were such a roller coaster. Right now, all I feel is sweet, sweet relief,” said an emotional Rahneva, a fifth-place finisher at the 2022 Olympics who broke out with a scream in the leader’s box after realizing her podium goal was achieved.
“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.”
The 34-year-old Rahneva battled to the final spot on the podium after chalking up a combined time of 4:34.41 in an epic battle on the only non-refrigerated track in the world.
“It doesn’t feel real yet because it all happened so fast,” added Rahneva. “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.”
The 34-year-old Rahneva was in second place at the midway point of the four-run race. Her teammate, Jane Channell (North Vancouver), was third.
The deck shuffled after the third run down the stunning 1,700-metres of natural ice that winds its way to the finish in the town of Celerina. A challenging third run dropped Rahneva to fifth spot, while Channell remained in the bronze-medal position.
“I was second off, and I think I just got really nervous (in the third run),” said Rahneva. “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.”
Not letting the opportunity get away from her, Rahneva battled back in the final heat where she threw down the third fastest run to solidify the bronze.
“That second and fourth run, I was flying. But that was really hard because I was watching Jane (Channell) and I saw that her run wasn’t going as planned. I knew there would be disappointment. You never want to see people fall apart – especially when your teammate just fell out of the medals – but then there was this realization that I’m in the medals. There is so much for both of Jane and I to be proud of today.”
Channell, who clocked the second-fastest start time in all four heats, was hunting down her first podium on the famed chute but wasn’t able to recover from a skid at the top of the track in the final heat, dropping her to sixth with a time of 4:34.76.
“I wanted more. I knew I had it in me. 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,” said Channell, a two-time Olympian who was delighted to have her mom and dad trackside. “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.
“I want to thank Joe Cecchini and Eric Neilson from the Snipers for all of the help and support. It means so much and is such a confidence boost when you feel supported standing on the start line.”
When the dust finally settled in the finish area, it was Germany’s Susanne Kreher celebrating in the women’s circle. The junior-aged athlete was a force in all four heats, clocking-in at 4:33.57.
Kreher topped Kimberley Bos, of The Netherlands, by just .01 for the World Championship crown. Bos stormed back on the second day, throwing down the top time in each of the final two heats, to claim the silver with a time of 4:33.58.
Rahneva has slid to 13 World Cup podiums throughout her career. Two of her victories, along with a third-place finish, have come on the oldest track in the world that has played host to the 1928 and 1948 Olympic Winter Games.
“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.”
The Ottawa resident added her name to a list of legendary Canadian skeleton athletes who have won World Championship medals. The distinguished group includes: Ryan Davenport; Olympic gold medallists, Jon Montgomery and Duff Gibson; Olympic bronze medallist, Mellisa Hollingsworth; Jeff Pain; Lindsay Alcock; Michelle Kelly; Elizabeth Vathje; and Sarah Reid who also won a bronze at the Olympia Bobrun in 2013.
“Canada has a great history of incredible sliders and those are all athletes that I look up too,” said Rahneva. “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.”
Rahneva sits in second place in the overall World Cup standings thanks to consistent results this season, including a victory in Park City and a silver medal in Winterberg.
Neither of the two Canadians qualified for the final run in the men’s race. Calgary’s Blake Enzie placed 23rd, while Saskatoon’s Evan Neufeldt slid to 27th.
Matt Weston, of Great Britain, was crowned World Champion with a time of 4:28.71.