Eric Neilson capped off his 2011-12 competitive season in style with a first-place showing at the Canadian national skeleton championships last weekend at Calgary Olympic Park.
After placing third in the opening run on Saturday, the 31-year-old from Kelowna took charge with a first-place effort in the second run, and remained on top for two more runs on the second and final day of competition.
It was another positive step forward for Neilson’s skeleton career, as he won silver last year at nationals.
In addition, he edged out Canadian teammate and Olympic gold medalist, Jon Montgomery for top honours in 2012.
“It’s my home track, I’ve spent a lot of time there, so I’m pretty comfortable there,” Neilson said from his home in Calgary. “It was nice to win and, as much as anything, it was a lot fun.
“Finishing ahead of Jon was a bonus. Competition is really stiff in Canada, so it’s a good way to measure yourself.”
Neilson is coming off a successful rookie season on the World Cup skeleton circuit.
His best results came in Winterberg, Germnay (fifth), Calgary (sixth) and Igls, Austria (seventh). He was also 13th at the world championship.
Neilson also posted what he considered to be a few disappointing results during the season, but still performed well enough to place 16th overall in the World Cup standings.
“That’s pretty good, but wish I could have done a little bit better,” Neilson said. “I had some really good races and some pretty bad ones. I need to be a little more consistent.”
Neilson doesn’t plan to take too much time off during the non-competitive season and says he’ll soon resume his dryland and fitness training.
After a respectable showing in his rookie season, Neilson’s desire to compete with the world’s top sliders has never been stronger.
“It’s really put the taste in my mouth, I’m craving it, and I don’t want anything less than being up there with the world’s best,” he said. “I feel like I’m at the point where I should be competing at that level. I just need to keep chipping away, and try to keep improving.”
Among Neilson’s future goals is earning a spot on the Canadian team for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.