By Dan Plouffe
The dream that fuelled Mimi Rahneva’s drive to come back this season following a difficult fifth-place finish at the Olympics came to fruition today in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
The Ottawa slider bobbed up and down the standings throughout the four runs of the women’s skeleton competition on her favourite track, but she finally landed on the third step of the podium to earn her first-ever individual World Championships medal.
“The two World Championships days were such a roller coaster,” Rahneva said via the International Bobsleigh Skeleton Federation. “Right now, all I feel is sweet, sweet relief. I actually love racing here, but I’ve never been so nervous. It helped me to focus on the fun of sliding. And it worked out in the end.”
The world’s only natural ice course is a little bit different each year since it’s cut out of the snow, and this rendition didn’t seem to jive with Rahneva quite the same way as when she won two World Cup races in five career starts.
Before the worlds, Rahneva likened the St. Moritz track to dancing a waltz, though there were times when she hip-hopped down with more turns and steering corrections than past appearances.
But the 34-year-old wasn’t alone – take for instance, reigning Olympic champion Hannah Neise, who placed 15th – and by the end, Mimi’s magic at St. Moritz came alive again.
Rahneva was fifth after the first run, then blasted up the rankings to sit second after yesterday’s opening day of racing.
Her podium prospects took a big hit with only the ninth-best time of the third heat, but a solid final run helped her leap up from fifth position past Austria’s Janine Flock and fellow Canadian Jane Channell.
Susanne Kreher extended Germany’s women’s skeleton worlds win streak to six in a row with a 0.01-second eyelash victory over The Netherlands’ Kimberley Bos. Rahneva finished 0.84 seconds back of the winning time in 4:34.41 to place third in the field of 30.
“The St. Moritz World Championships – I’ve dreamt about this for many, many years,” Rahneva told the Ottawa Sports Pages in an interview earlier this season. “Medaling at World Championships is goal #1 this year.”
Bulgaria-born Rahneva, who spoke no English when her family emigrated to Canada when she was 10, has been through some difficult experiences in her skeleton career in recent years.
She carried a heavy debt load in order to compete at last year’s Olympics, she had to come back from spinal fusion surgery, and she’s endured boardroom drama while seeking leadership change at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton.
Rahneva’s previous best individual finish at the World Championships was eighth in 2017. She won a silver medal in the 2019 team competition on Canada’s home track in Whistler. The International Bobsleigh Skeleton Federation World Championships skeleton mixed team event will take place on Sunday.
Ottawa’s Pat Norton will make his World Championships debut in the two-man bobsled competition on Saturday and Sunday. The 30-year-old pilot is world-ranked 23rd in the discipline.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.