Locals lead the way on track | ParkRecord.com

Locals lead the way on track

Chris Hedquist zooms down the icy track at the Utah Olympic Park as he goes for his second gold medal at the AIT Worlwide America's Cup bobsled and skeleton competition.

In baseball and football it’s called ‘home field advantage’, but in the world of sliding sports, it becomes ‘home track advantage’. For Parkite Felicia Canfield and Salt Lake native Chris Hedquist, familiar ice never felt so smooth as they slid to gold in the AIT Worldwide America’s Cup races at the UOP this week.

"It’s always an advantage," Hedquist said. "You’re comfortable here. Your friends are family are here. This is the track you learned on."

Hedquist swept Wednesday’s and Thursday’s competitions, turning in runs of 50.31 seconds and 50.38 for a combined time of 1:40.69 in the first race and runs of 50.31 and 50.60 for a combined 1:40.91 finish in the second. The win gave Hedquist his first gold medals in America’s Cup competition. Hedquist, 2004 Europa Cup champion and a current member of the Europa Cup team, was not allowed to compete at the first America’s Cup stop in Lake Placid, N.Y. He is also an alternate for the U.S. World Cup team.

In the first race on Wednesday, Canfield took top honors with runs of 52.12 and 52.26 seconds for a combined time of one minute and 44.58 seconds. This was Canfield’s first America’s Cup first-place win on the Park City track. Right behind her was fellow Park City slider Mackenzie Flanders who took silver with a combined time 1:44.95. In the second race Canfield took second to close friend Natasha Ellison, an American born slider turned Canadian who took the gold medal with runs of 52.46 and 52.58 for a 1:45.04 finish. Canfield said that distractions before her first run slowed her down.

"It was just a good competition between Felicia and I. We’re long-standing rivals," said Ellison.

Canfield and Ellison began sliding the same year after Felicia’s husband, Brady, a slider on he Europa Tour, recruited her into the sport. The three met at an official U.S. testing camp in Park City — when Ellison was living in New Mexico prior to her marriage to a Canadian man.

Besides familiar ice, both Canfield and Hedquist also had the support of the hometown crowd to cheer them to victory. With her husband sliding abroad and their three kids in school, Felecia did not have as much family support, but said that she felt the community support as she raced this week. Hedquist, had a slightly larger cheering section. With his parents, wife and friends at the skeleton start, Hedquist was treated to cheering, yelling and even a rousing rendition of "Old MacDonald" on the second day of competition.

"It’s always fun to come home. It’s always a little special to come home and win," Hedquist said.

The home track may have also provided the sliders a bit of relief. Canfield has competed in eight races in the last month and Hedquist is alternating between two tours run on two different continents. This is the first time they have been home to compete on their own track.

"It’s a lot of early-season races with little to no training," Canfield said.

The sliders now head to Calgary, Canada for the next stop on the tour, November 20-26.

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