February 16, 2006
No bones about it ...
It hasn't been easy, but Mellisa's ready to go for the gold in skeleton
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

TURIN -- If Canada hadn't brought a portable weight room, would Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards' Olympics been sewered?

"We've had problems with the sewer system in our village," she said. "It backed up. They had to shut down the weight room because it was flooded with sewage.

"It didn't affect us because Canada brought our own weight-training equipment here. But it has been a pretty good test to get to race day."

The Eckville skeleton competitor - who has been on the podium in six of seven World Cup events this year - goes for gold today.

'EXCITED, HAPPY'

"I'm really excited and happy to be going," she said.

Living in the Sestriere athletes village hasn't been easy.

"We were here in November for a training week, so my expectations were that it wasn't going to run so smooth," said the wife of professional rodeo cowboy Bill Richards.

"I really had trouble sleeping the first couple of days. And the food hasn't been as good as we expected. But you eat to fill the body. It doesn't matter what it tastes like."

She will have her first Olympics today on the 19-turn track.

"It was great to finally get going and start my training runs," she said.

TECHNICAL TRACK

"It's a very technical track. I like it. It has high gravitational forces and a lot of speed. But I'm not starting at the top of the track afraid like in Altenberg, Germany, or at the track in Latvia."

The training schedule has been difficult, too, she said.

"One thing you have to keep in mind is that it's the same for everybody. It's tough to go home, get some sleep, then get up early in the morning like we've been forced to do here. But it's the same for everybody."

Hollingsworth-Richards' main competition for the gold is expected to come from Maya Pederson of Switzerland.

The Canadian leads the second-place Swiss in the World Cup standings, and one or the other has won six of the seven World Cup races.

Hollingsworth-Richards, 25, scored her first World Cup win at the series opener in Calgary and followed through with two more.

Pederson, 33, was fifth in Salt Lake 2002.