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How Canada’s Hallie Clarke crash-landed into a gold medal at the skeleton worlds | CBC Sports

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In hockey terms, Hallie Clarke took a hit to make a play.

The 19-year-old Canadian crashed through the finish line at the skeleton world championships last week, becoming the youngest person ever to win gold at the event.

She told CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo on Tuesday that her chaotic close was all part of the plan after entering the final run tied with Olympic champion Hannah Neise.

“It hurt, but it was worth it. As soon as I saw the time, at that point I didn’t know that I had won it but I knew that I had gotten a medal and instantly pain just went away,” Clarke said.

WATCH | Teen skeleton racer Hallie Clarke reflect on chaotic slide to title:

‘It hurt. But it was worth it’: 19-year-old world champion skeleton athlete Hallie Clarke reflects on her title

Hallie Clarke is in the history books for becoming the youngest-ever skeleton world champion. We spoke to the teen after her win about friends and family reaction, and her chaotic slide across the finish line.

Clarke, of Brighton, Ont., added that the track timing mechanism sits right at the end of the final corner, making it more clock-efficient to crash through the finish.

“Letting that happen is actually faster than steering to try to stop it, and I was like, if there was a time to let this happen and just take whatever pain comes with it, it would be for a world championship title,” she said.

Winding road to top

In a way, the run encapsulated Clarke’s skeleton career. She began in the sport while living in Calgary around five years ago, and represented Canada through the Beijing Olympics, where she was an alternate.

But amid the ensuing unrest with the national sport organization concerning athlete mistreatment, Clarke switched allegiances to the U.S.

Racing as an American last season, Clarke, who lived in the U.S. for most of her life, earned silver at the World Cup in Whistler, placed 10th at the world championships in Switzerland and won world junior gold at the same track in Winterberg, Germany where she would claim the senior title a year later.

WATCH | Clarke wins skeleton gold at worlds:

Canadian teen Hallie Clarke becomes youngest female world champion in skeleton

19-year-old Hallie Clarke of Brighton, Ont., followed up on her under-20 world junior championship skeleton win last year in Winterberg, Germany by winning gold at the 2024 world championships on the same track.

She came back to Team Canada for the current season, following her personal coach Joe Cecchini, who took the head coaching role with the Canadian team.

“Every decision I made was the right decision for me at the time, and I don’t regret any of it. I think it’s the reason I am where I am and I’m so grateful that I can call myself world champion and I did it while repping the Maple Leaf on my back,” she said.

While she crossed paths with different teammates and coaches in that time, Clarke’s family was there through it all.

Embrace with mom

And immediately after her crash landing, Clarke made her way to the crowd and embraced her mom, who was decked out in a Canada toque and jacket while holding the Maple Leaf flag.

“It was my favourite moment of that whole week. It was amazing. As soon I looked over to her she was crying, and then I just instantly started crying. I couldn’t help it,” Clarke said.

“She’s been there through everything. My whole family has been so supportive and the reason that I’ve gotten to the level I have. So to have her there and to share that moment with her, it was everything.”

Clarke spent the past two months competing and living in Europe before finally returning home Monday night to a surprise from her entire family at the airport.

Despite not reaching the podium once in that span, Clarke said she felt relatively calm entering that final run.

“I just knew I needed to go out and have fun and enjoy it and whatever happened, happened. But the fact that I was in the running for that long was something to be proud of,” she said. “And then, you know, the best happened and it was so exciting.”

Clarke returns to the track on March 21 for the World Cup season finale in Lake Placid, N.Y.

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