February 21, 2006
'I only think of Canada'
Jamaican-born bobsled brakeman savours the moment at medal ceremony
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

TURIN -- Cindy Klassen is getting to be an old hand at this. It was her third trip to the Medal Plaza in Piazza Castello and she still hasn't skated her best event yet.

Pierre Lueders had been there and done that before, too, although for him it was eight years ago in Nagano.

So neither really resented that the moment belonged to Lascelles Brown, a bobsled brakeman who had been a Canadian citizen for only 26 days when they hung an Olympic silver medal over his head yesterday.

"I think that's pretty good," Lueders said.

"He's a pretty special story," Klassen said.

Brown said it's amazing to hear that after 26 days of being a Canadian, people could be as happy for him as for Klassen or Lueders.

"I met Cindy Klassen behind the curtain and she's a tremendous girl. She's awesome. And Pierre ... Pierre is my idol."

Brown was a guy who, until he finished second in the two-man bobsled about an hour after Klassen finished second in the 1,000 metres at speed skating, hadn't used more than four words to answer a question before.

The 33-year-old, who competed for Jamaica in Salt Lake 2002, came to the ice house in Calgary to train, ended up falling in love and marrying a Canadian and fathering a child. He became the first Jamaican to win a medal at the Olympic Winter Games, but he said he didn't think one second about Jamaica up there on the podium.

"I only think of Canada. When I call my friends after the Olympics, then I think of Jamaica. I wanted this for Canada and I only can think of Canada today and the people who made it possible for this to happen to me. When I started bobsledding in Jamaica, I couldn't imagine ever being on the podium with a silver medal at the Olympics."

The moment belonged to a whole host of people who made it happen, not the least of whom was Anne McLellan, the deputy prime minister prior to the election who just happened to be in the same flower shop as Lueders's mom, Kate. The subsequent conversation about the frustrating delay with the bureaucracy was finally solved and Brown became a citizen on Jan. 25 at a special ceremony in Berlin, about 250 km from where he was competing in Altenberg, Germany.

For Lueders, who has won back-to-back two-man world championships - as well as this year's World Cup title - the trip to the Olympic podium was a chance to relive the moment and do it right the second time.

"The medal ceremony seemed to go by so quickly eight years ago," said the Edmonton pilot, who won a gold at Nagano 1998 with Dave MacEachern of P.E.I.

"I wanted to make sure this time I took it all in. Just to get back up there again; I didn't care what colour of medal it was.

"I was amazed how many memories about getting my medal in Nagano came flooding back. Things I thought I'd forgot, all of a sudden I remembered again. It was really good that way."

In a weird way it was like Lueders showing Brown around as they came on to the stage together to get their medal, copying his driver's every move. But once up there, the brakeman kissed the medal on his own and while the first-place Germans were being presented with the gold, held the medal in the palm of his hand as if to test its weight.

"It's really solid and nice," he said.

For Winnipeg's Klassen it was an all-time Canadian photo-op. No Canadian has ever taken three trips to the medal plaza before.

She brought her other two medals with her for the picture but hopes to be back Thursday to get a shot at four. If she wins one in the 1,500 metre at speed skating tomorrow she'll become the first Canadian, summer or winter, to have four Olympic medals hung around her neck.

This one was 0.04 seconds from being a gold in the 1,000 metres, which would have completed the collection. She'd won a team silver in the pursuit and a bronze in the 3,000 metres.

"I'm sure happy about it. My only goal coming here was to do better than Salt Lake, and I've already done that."

As for being back here again and being the one on top of the podium listening to her anthem, she said, "I'm trying not to think about things like that."

Not Brown. He has a shot to be back here after the four man.

"I'm going to put this away and try to get back and get another one. This is the reeeeeaal deeeeeaal!"