By Christopher Thrall –
U of A Augustana alumnus, RCMP officer based in Rankin Inlet and Canadian Natural Luge Team member Kaj Johnson (BA PhysEd-Drama ’07) placed 13th at the FIL Würz Energy World Cup in Kindberg, Austria on January 23. Ranked 33rd in the world after Kindberg, Johnson raced the following weekend at the World Cup race in Umhausen, Austria and placed 15th.
Johnson and his two team members, who had previously trained on the natural luge track created by Dr. David Larson at the Stoney Creek Centre in Camrose, had only two days to train in Italy before tackling the Austrian competitions.
Following the race, Johnson was pleased with his result. “I am happy with my performance this weekend,” he told Bryan Jones of the Luge News blog. “With not being on a sled until just a few days ago it is nice to see that the only athletes to finish ahead of me were from either the Italian or Austrian powerhouse teams.”
The International Luge Federation (FIL) adores the young Canadian, who was ranked best non-Italian and non-Austrian (who have been dominating the men’s events for years) in Kindberg, and profiled his trek of over 8000 km from Rankin Inlet to Umhausen.
“The plane which should have taken me to Yellowknife could not fly because of bad weather conditions,” he told the FIL. Only an unscheduled flight in a calm moment between blizzards could get Johnson out of Rankin Inlet, 1800km northeast of Edmonton. “From Yellowknife I flew to Edmonton, from there to Calgary and then to Munich. All together it took five days to get from Rankin Inlet to Austria.” The FIL highlighted his last RCMP assignment before he left: to keep a polar bear from terrorizing the city’s population. “We managed to chase the polar bear out of town, just before it was going to attack a sled dog camp. Thank God we did not have to shoot the bear.”
Johnson had previously gained renown for being the best-placed Canadian ever at the Natural Luge World Championships in February, 2007 when he placed 11th: no Canadian had ever cracked the top 20.