Lugers ready for showtime

Head coach says Canadian sliders 'very solid' in recent runs

As the world comes to watch Olympic sporting feats in Whistler, local wildlife is popping up to have a peek, too. A lynx was spotted around the outside the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre during an unofficial training session on Monday (Feb. 8), taking in the sight of what many are calling the fastest track in the world.

"I think it's one of the coolest things about Whistler," Calgary's Jeff Christie said of the sliding centre's mountainside setting and animal visitors.

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In a press conference Tuesday (Feb. 9), Canada's top lugers laughed over the lynx sighting; Christie recounted a tale of seeing a bear peeking into Corner 1 on the 16-corner track. Feeling that he looked like a giant salmon in his red suit, he figured he'd better hold off on starting his run.

The three men, three women and two doubles teams who will wear the maple leaf in the Olympic luge events sounded upbeat and focused on laying down the best runs they can at the Whistler track come Games time. The men's singles events are set for Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 13 and 14), followed by the women's runs on Monday and Tuesday (Feb. 15 and 16) and the doubles racing on Wednesday (Feb. 17).

"I think we are ready," said Wolfgang Staudinger, the head coach who was recruited from Germany in 2007. He said the lugers have done everything they can to prepare, and they have been showing "very solid sliding" in recent days, so now it's up to them to be consistent.

It's showtime, and Staudinger wants the competitions to start.

"I'm antsy," he joked.

Calgary's Sam Edney, who is also a Quest University student when he's not rocketing down luge tracks, has had a standout season on the World Cup circuit, including a career-best fifth-place finish and a recent seventh-place result on the 2006 Olympic track. Making his second Olympic start, Edney said he'll be trying not to get ahead of himself and stick to his routine, even though his early results have given him confidence.

"I can be there, I can be in that top group, but I have to do everything I've been doing," Edney said.

He missed the first day of the Canadian team's training on the Whistler track this week because of a bout with a stomach bug that struck on the day he moved into the athletes' village, but is feeling much better and had two sessions on Monday to enjoy the Olympic ice.

"You really get that (Olympic) feel when you go down," Edney said, enjoying the way he hasn't been hearing the noise of his sled's runners or feeling bumps, and praising the track crew.

Calgary's Alex Gough is also coming into the Games as a podium threat, backed by career-best fourth-place finishes on the World Cup circuit this season and her fourth-place finish at last year's world championships, the best-ever Canadian world championship result.

World Cup silver medallist Regan Lauscher and fast-starting Meaghan Simister join Gough on the women's side, and the ever-solid Christie and Calgary's Ian Cockerline will slide alongside Edney in men's singles. Chris and Mike Moffat are three-time Olympians, like Lauscher, and they'll be joined in the doubles races by rising rookies Tristan Walker and Justin Snith.

The Whistler Sliding Centre has been fully decked out for the Games. Lots 7 and 8 are filled with tents and trailers necessary for Olympic operations - everything from security screening to logistics, technology and athlete compounds - and workers this week were installing the grandstands, video boards and other accessories to augment the experience for the spectators in the 12,000-capacity venue.

Canada's Olympic biathletes also held a press conference Tuesday, where they professed their desire to "ski fast and shoot clean," as Jean-Philippe Le Guellec phrased it, and lay down their best possible performances at Whistler Olympic Park.

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