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Calgary luger Alex Gough slides just short of an Olympic medal in Sochi

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Alex Gough took no comfort in producing her country's best Olympic result ever by a Canadian luger.

Finishing fourth, just outside the medals, was too painful.

"Definitely a little emotional, definitely a little disappointed," a tearful Gough said Tuesday at the Sanki Sliding Centre.

"Fourth is definitely the worst feeling. It's just tough be in that first spot off the podium."

Gough wasn't a gold-medal favourite given the domination of German women, but a medal was within her capabilities.

The 26-year-old Calgarian stood on the podium of every World Cup except one this winter. Gough won world championship bronze in 2013 and 2011 to become Canada's most decorated athlete in the sport.

She was poised to become the first North American woman to win an Olympic luge medal, but that distinction went to Erin Hamlin of the U.S. instead.

Hamlin was a surprise bronze medallist behind gold medallist Natalie Geisenberger and runner-up Tatiana Huefner of Germany. Hamlin won the women's world championship in 2009, but Gough had beaten her on all but one track this season.

Gough's mistake Monday in the first of the four combined runs was the difference. Gough tapped a side wall coming out of the fifth corner onto an incline and lost speed.

She ranked fifth and remained there after her second run Monday. Gough overtook Natalja Khoreva of Russia on her third pass Tuesday, but wasn't able to gain ground on Hamlin in the finale.

Gough finished just over four-tenths of a second back of a medal.

"I had one mistake and that was it. It was going to be a fight to try and claw my way back from then on in," Gough said. "My second run was OK, my two runs today were great but I just didn't put myself in a great position after the first run.

"It's just disappointing to not have been able to put four good runs together and have the race I wanted to have. I had way better runs in training."

Geisenberger — known as the Queen of Luge — won gold in a dominant four-run time of three minutes 19.768 seconds. She was over a second ahead of Huefner in 3:20.907. Huefner was the Olympic champion in 2010 and Geisenberger took the bronze.

Hamlin's finished in 3:21.145 to make U.S. luge history as the first athlete to win an Olympic luge medal in singles. Gough's time was 3:21.578 seconds.

"For me, the Olympia god, the god of luge, he pointed at North America and he mixed up the countries to say the least," Canadian coach Wolfgang Staudinger said. "He should have gone further north than south."

After speaking to reporters, Gough sobbed on Staudinger's shoulder.

"I said to her that she did a fantastic job and that's sport," Staudinger said. "It wasn't a big mistake. I wish we would have been third, but this is not a wish concert.

"This was fair racing and racing on a very high level."

Canada's top previous Olympic result in the sport was fifth by the men's doubles team of Eric Pothier and Chris Moffat in 2002. The top female performance prior to Tuesday was seventh by Marie-Claude Doyon, who is also Staudinger's wife.

In contrast to Gough's tears, teammate Kimberley McRae finished fifth and the 21-year-old from Calgary was all smiles to reach the top five in her first Winter Games.

"Pretty amazing," she said. "It's truly remarkable to be fifth at the Olympic Games. My goals are 2018 and this was the first Olympics, so I have another four years, if not eight years to go."

Calgarian Arianne Jones was 13th and the 23-year-old's final run was the fastest of her four.

"I was sitting at the start handles on my last run and I said 'I'm really going to give'er and give it my all' so at the end of the day I can say I really did my best and I feel really happy with my last run," Jones said. "It's a great run to finish off the season."

Bigger, heavier athletes use gravity to their advantage in luge. Geisenberger is six feet and 168 pounds, while Huefner is five foot 10 and 168.

At 138 pounds, McRae needs to eat a lot and lift a lot of weights over the next four years heading into 2018 to gain some muscular bulk.

"Lots of food. I'm going to eat as much as the boys," McCrae. "A lot of weight gain and a lot of muscle. Sixty-eight or 70 kilos, I can fit that on my frame."

The men's doubles team of Calgarians Tristan Walker and Justin Snith race Wednesday. Canada can still win its first medal in luge in the new team relay event Thursday.

Gough, Calgary's Sam Edney and the doubles team have consistently finished on the World Cup podium in it and took silver at last year's world championship.

"Hopefully we'll bit more happy after the team relay," Staudinger said.

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