February 10, 2006
Who the heck are ya?
They're Olympians next door, but don't expect to have heard of them
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

TURIN, Italy -- You've heard of Pierre Lueders, Jenn Heil, Beckie Scott, Jeremy Wotherspoon, Deidra Dionne, Steven Elm, Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards and of late even David Bissett.

But who in heck are Zina Kocher, David Leoni, Amanda Ammar, Drew Goldsack, Grant Albrecht and Regan Lauscher?

They're also Olympians next door. It's just that you've never heard of them before.

Two reasons. One is they come from sports like luge, biathlon and cross-country skiing. Being in those sports is like being in the witness protection program.

The other thing is they're up-and-comers who intend to make their names at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Biathlon is the event in which Zina Kocher of Red Deer and David Leoni of Camrose compete.

NOT AS FAMOUS

"My name may not be as famous as some of the other Olympians right now but we've seen what an Olympic gold medal can do with Myriam Bedard and one day I'd like to be the same," said Kocher.

"But right now I'm going just to do the best I can for myself. I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far. I'm confident I can be even better."

Kocher finished in a surprising fifth place in the women's 7.5 kilometre at the World Cup event in Osrblie, Slovakia just prior to Christmas.

"That was the breakthrough event for me," she said. "I see these Games as an opportunity to gain experience for Vancouver 2010."

David Leoni of Camrose, 22, is the youngest member of the Canadian biathlon squad who found his inspiration a decade ago when a former Olympian Glenn Reupertus fixed his jammed rifle, gave him a picture and signed it.

"I showed the photo to him when they named the team. He's got a big moustache in it."

Leoni doesn't need a false moustache or beard to keep from being recognized.

"It is true that in Alberta as a whole not too many people are aware of my sport or its athletes. But there's pretty good support where we train in Canmore and where I'm from in Camrose."

The two are the future of the team which saw the entire team retire after the 1998 Nagano Olympics and only Ottawa's Robin Clegg represent Canada in the sport in Salt Lake 2002.

Cross-country skiing doesn't make you a household name overnight either unless you make it to the Olympic podium and are involved in one of the most widely publicized doping controversies of all time, having your bronze medal upgraded to silver and then to gold as, of course, is the story of Beckie Scott.

Amanda Ammar, the St. Albert-born skier who now calls Onoway home graduated from the junior program to end up skiing with Scott and Sarah Renner in the 20-kilometre cross-country event and finishing fourth in Val di Fiemme, Italy on Jan. 16.

Drew Goldsack of Red Deer competes here hoping to finish in the top half of the field in the sprint. He did that with a 21st-place finish at the 2005 World Championships in Obersdorf, Germany.

"I think it's good for me not to have a high profile right now. I really don't worry about it. It's good for me to fly under the radar. There's a lot of pressure at the Olympics on the high-profile Olympians, and for me, I can focus on getting what needs to get done.

'CAPABLE OF TOP-15'

"I'm happy to finish in the top 30 and I'm capable of the top 15."

While Canada is hot in bobsled and skeleton, Luge is the one sport at the venue where we are not.

Grant Albrecht, 25, and also from Red Deer, is from the almost pornographic sport of double luge, where his partner is Eric Pothier. With a different partner he finished 12th in Salt Lake, 2002.

Regan Lauscher, yet another competitor out of Red Deer, a 26-year-old in the women's singles event who finished eighth in the 2004-05 World Cup standings. She was 12th at the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics.

They may not be names now, but they're Olympians. And they're ours.







Bios

Roster

History

Schedule

Preview

Men's 10km Sprint
Results
Past Champs

Men's 12.5km Pursuit
Results
Past Champs

Men's 20km Individual
Results
Past Champs

Men's 4x7.5km Relay
Results
Past Champs

Men's Mass Start
Results
Past Champs

Women's 7.5km Sprint
Results
Past Champs

Women's 10km Pursuit
Results
Past Champs

Women's 15km Individual
Results
Past Champs

Women's 4x7.5km Relay
Results
Past Champs

Women's Mass Start
Results
Past Champs