Canadian Hallie Clarke wins world title in women’s skeleton

23 February 2024
Canadian Hallie Clarke wins world title in women’s skeleton

Canada’s Hallie Clarke is the new world champion of women’s skeleton.

The 19-year-old from Brighton, Ont., captured gold on Friday in Winterberg, Germany to become the youngest person ever to claim the world title in the event.

Clarke — who won junior world championship gold on the same track last year — posted a four-run combined time of three minutes 51.27 seconds to win the world title.

Belgium’s Kim Meylemans took silver at 3:51.49, while Germany’s Hannah Neise rounded out the podium with bronze at 3:51.53.

Clarke, who failed to reach the podium in any World Cup event this season, held a slim lead through two heats. She even admitted Thursday that her placing was a “total surprise” to her too.

But the champion was saving her best for last. Heading into the fourth and final heat, Clarke and Neise were all knotted up atop the leaderboard.

That’s when Clarke put down the fastest run of the event, becoming the only competitor to break the 57-second barrier with her time of 56.93 seconds.

After Neise struggled on her final run, Clarke became the youngest women’s skeleton world champion ever crowned.

“It’s crazy, it still feels like a dream. It was my goal today just to have fun no matter what. I never expected to be in this position,” Clarke said. “I have been very nervous, I’m still shaking from all the adrenaline, but I tried to remind myself that I love sliding and racing.”

Neise said she was happy to be on the podium on her home track.

“Gold would have been nice, but it was my goal to win a medal here in front of my home crowd. Hallie simply [executed] a mega-strong race, she totally deserved it,” she said.

Ottawa’s Mirela Rahneva, who claimed two World Cup medals on the season, finished seventh with a time of 3:51.63. Jane Channell of North Vancouver, B.C., was 11th at 3:52.72.

It was a winding road to the top of the podium for Clarke — both literally and figuratively.

Though still a teenager, Clarke has resided in Calgary, Boston, Buffalo and elsewhere with her family after being born in Ontario.

She only discovered skeleton about five years ago after seeing a sign in Calgary’s Winsport Arena.

“I happened to see this ‘Learn to push’ sign and I was like, ‘That sounds so Canadian. I have to try this.’ And then I tried it once and then I just kind of kept going and never stopped,” she told CBC Sports last November.

Clarke quickly caught on with the national team. She was an alternate at the 2022 Olympics, though she never even flew out to Beijing.

But when fellow sliding athletes began calling out Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) for its mistreatment of athletes, Clarke made the decision to switch allegiances to a more stable environment with Team USA, for whom she’d seek American citizenship in an effort to compete at the 2026 Olympics.

She enjoyed some success in the red, white and blue, claiming silver at the World Cup in Whistler, B.C., and placing 10th at the 2023 world championships.

Then, BCS overhauled its staff, naming Clarke’s longtime personal coach Joe Cecchini as its skeleton lead. With the added comfort level, and still early in a citizenship process that could be drawn out, Clarke came back to Team Canada ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.

Source: cbc

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