Motivated Canadian Skeleton Athletes Ready for World Cup Opener in Beijing
CALGARY—A re-energized trio of Olympians and a rising teenage star in the sport of skeleton will dive headfirst into the 2023-24 season for Canada when the World Cup campaign launches in Beijing, China, November 17.
Olympians Jane Channell (North Vancouver, B.C.), Mirela Rahneva (Ottawa, Ont.), and Blake Enzie (Calgary, Alta.) welcome the return of 19-year-old Hallie Clarke (Brighton, Ont.) to the Senior Canadian Skeleton Team following an offseason highlighted with positive changes that has rejuvenated the national skeleton program. The trio of Canadian women will hit the start block for each of the eight World Cup races, while Enzie will suit up for six stops. Athletes from the Development Skeleton Team and the Athlete pool will fill the remaining quota spot as part of their ongoing evaluation and development plan.
The governing body for skeleton in Canada also announced four athletes to its Development Skeleton Team and one more slider to its NextGen program on Wednesday. Eight more athletes will form the National Athlete Pool – a group of athletes who will continue working towards hitting performance thresholds, and will be given the opportunity to race internationally when spots are available.
“The National Skeleton Program has created a strategic performance plan focused on delivering podium performances on the World Cup, while not losing sight of long-term athlete development, all while ensuring the health of our athletes in a supportive culture of excellence,” said Joe Cecchini, head coach and technical lead, National Skeleton Program. “Hallie, Jane, Mirela and Blake have proven they can deliver when it counts at all levels of their development pathway. It is our goal to work with our funding partners to ensure this group of athletes continue to have the support and tools they require to succeed in achieving their performance goals while continuing to foster the development of the next generation behind them.”
The 35-year-old Rahneva will be looking for some redemption on the 2022 Olympic Track where she was fifth at the Games. Rahneva is coming off a solid post-Olympic season on the World Cup where she slid to her first ever World Championship podium, claiming the bronze. The breakthrough performance capped off a season that included a victory and second-place finish, earning the veteran slider a Crystal Globe for finishing third overall on the World Cup in 2022-23 for the third time of her career.
Rahneva’s teammate at the last two Olympic Winter Games, Jane Channell, will also be on the podium prowl. One of the fastest starters on the planet, the 35-year-old multiple World Cup medallist, delivered a season-best sixth place finish last year at the World Championships.
“We, the athletes, only see the results from the work, time and effort that goes on behind the scenes. The impact our coach, Joe Cecchini, has brought can now be seen and felt throughout the program – from our World Cup Team, all the way down to our first prospects in years who he has recruited this summer,” said Channell. “Trusting the process and program is something we have all embraced with the betterment being seen and felt physically, mentally and emotionally with the addition of various support programs that were previously missing.”
The dynamic Canadian women’s skeleton duo of Channell and Rahneva welcome the return of Hallie Clarke north of the border. One of the most talented prospects in the sport, Clarke competed for the United States during her debut season on the World Cup last year where she earned two silver medals and a top-10 finish at the World Championships.
“I’m incredibly grateful to wear the maple leaf again,” said Clarke, who topped last season off by claiming the U20 Junior World Championship crown. “The Canadian program is evolving, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I think this is going to be an exciting season for all of us.”
Calgary’s Blake Enzie will lead the Canadian men on the World Cup this year. Competing in just his second season on the elite circuit, Enzie will look to continue building towards Milan-Cortina 2026 with a targeted competition schedule that will see him competing on all international circuits. The 22-year-old will build off a strong off season, and impressive team qualification period, while taking on the world’s best.
A talented group of youngsters, who are also providing additional energy to the program on the Development Skeleton Teams, are also poised to capture the world’s attention on the Europe Cup and North America’s Cup circuits.
The following athletes were named to the National Development Programs:
National Skeleton Development Team
Josip Brusic (Okotoks, Alta.)
Ryan Kuehn (Calgary, Alta.)
David Park (Calgary, Alta.)
Troy Wilson (Woodstock, N.B.)
Sebastien Regnier (Winnipeg, Man.)
National Athlete Pool:
Tirza Lara (Sun Peaks, B.C.)
Jordan Rwiyamilra (Montreal, QC)
Grace Dafoe (Calgary, Alta.)
Kyle Donsberger (Regina, Sask.)
Mark Lynch (St. John’s, Nfld.)
Jacob Coleman (Whistler, B.C.)
Marc-Antoine Vignault (Montreal Que.)
Mackenzie Adams (Kelowna, B.C.)
Earlier this summer, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton announced that Joe Cecchini, Kevin Boyer and Micaela Widmer will share coaching responsibilities throughout the athlete development pathway.
Cecchini took on a dual role of Head Coach and Technical Lead for the National Skeleton Program. Kevin Boyer, who represented Canada at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and was a member of the National Skeleton Program for 10 years, is supporting Cecchini as an Assistant Technical Coach.
Micaela Widmer, who spent over a decade as a competitive skeleton athlete, having competed internationally for both Canada and Switzerland, will play a critical role in supporting the program as the National Skeleton Program Team Manager and as a Technical Coach.
“This off season offered our program the opportunity to reconnect with teammates, coaches and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. The support that has come with the hiring of Joe, Kevin and Micaela has been a critical step towards rebuilding our program,” added Jane Channell. “We are a stronger, more cohesive team than we have ever been. Canada skeleton was successful before, but now, the support runs right through to the new recruits, North America’s Cup, Europe Cup and World Cup level athletes. I’m excited for the potential and for what’s to come within all levels of the program.”
Bobsleigh CANADA Skeleton is a non-profit organization and the national governing body for the sports of bobsleigh and skeleton in Canada. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Karbon and Joe Rocket Canada – along with the Government of Canada, Own the Podium and the Canadian Olympic Committee, Bobsleigh CANADA Skeleton develops Olympic and world champions. Please visit us at www.bobsleighcanadaskeleton.ca.