CESANA PARIOL, Italy — One more medal.
If Pierre Lueders’ pushers had been able to give their pilot 0.09 of a second, Canada would have reached the Winter Olympic goal of 25.
Instead it ended up at 24.
And Lueders gave Canada a final fourth.
In a way, it defined Canada in the big picture at the Turin.
Purt’ near. But not plumb.
It was a day when Clara Hughes won gold and Cindy Klassen won her record fifth medal at long track speed skating. Francois-Louis Tremblay won silver in short track to go with a silver by the men’s relay team, which brought Canada’s total to 24.
But Lueders put himself on that other list, the one where Canada led the world with 11 fourth-place finishes.
Eleven fourths tells the story of what could have been for Canada here.
“It sucks,’’ Lueders said. “But it shows the potential in our sport and other sports.’’
Canada has become a country which no longer takes passengers to the Olympics. But for Lueders yesterday in the four-man bobsled, it was the passengers in his sled who cost our nation a chance for a 25th medal to take home from here.
“They’re pretty upset,’’ the Edmonton pilot said of his pushers.
“You win as a team and you lose as a team. I’m not going to blame anything. Those poor guys behind me, there’s nothing left.
“Right now they’re hurting. They’re hurting and then some.’’
Lueders in Canada 1 finished .09 seconds behind Martin Annen of Switzerland in third. Andre Lange of Germany completed his Olympic bob double with gold in both events, finishing a half-second ahead of the Canadians, with Russia’s Alexandre Zoubkov winning the silver, 0.37 ahead of Lueders.
“I’m not going to blame anybody,’’ he said of the team which practises starts in a $5-million ice house in Calgary but couldn’t nail one here. They were fifth, fourth, sixth and fourth in starts in the four runs.
“They had nothing left. They gave it everything they had. Those guys couldn’t have given an extra 1/100th, couldn’t have given another ounce. I’m very proud of them. They were going for a medal in their first Olympics. In the end they’ll be better for it.
“I remember my first Olympics in Lillehammer and everybody expected great things for me,’’ he said of finishing seventh and eleventh in the two sleds.
What we watched yesterday in the agony of defeat was a new Pierre Lueders. We saw the same earlier at the Games when the 35-year-old driver cried for brakeman Lascelles Brown winning a silver medal in the two-man bobsled, 25 days after Brown won his Canadian citizenship.
Four or eight years ago, Lueders would have blamed his pushers. Yesterday he left that to his gold-medal brakeman from the two-man in Nagano, Dave MacEachern, in the CBC broadcast booth.
With the two Saskatchewan pushers, Ken Kotyk of Rama and Morgan Alexander of Regina, joining Lueders and brakeman Lascelles Brown in the big sled, Lueders had high hopes of finally having the team to have Olympic success in the four-man. He had the sled.
Lueders, who won two-man gold in Nagano 1998 and two-man silver here, was never in the mix in four-man until he finished third in the world championship last year and second in the World Cup standings this year.
In four-man he was 11th in Lillehammer, ninth in Nagano and 10th in Salt Lake.
Lueders lost bronze by a blink of the eye.
“They say a blink of the eye is 1/10th of a second,” he said.
“We were out of the medals by 0.09.’’
The Swiss had a third run which dropped them to third from second and opened the door.
One good start would have done it.
“We made up time all the way down,’’ Lueders said of his final run.
“I needed to out-drive the Swiss and I did. But there was nothing else we could have done.’’
Lueders, who competed in his fourth Olympics, was asked if he was going to hang around for four more years to compete in Vancouver 2010.
“I hope I’m not hanging,’’ he said.
“I started competing for Canada in 1989. My first run in a bobsled was in Canada and I’m planning my last one I’ll ever have will be on that ice in my country at the Olympics in Vancouver.’’
Maybe by then the guys in his sled will be able to push him to the Olympic medal he most covets, a medal in the big sled, a medal in the four-man.