How's $1M for incentive?

By TORONTO SUN

WHISTLER -- As gambles go, it would appear to be a pretty safe bet.

As a performance incentive, it is like nothing Canadian Olympic athletes have ever seen.

The Canadian luge team learned on Tuesday that its title sponsor -- the Fast Track Group -- has offered up a $1-million cash bonus should any of them hit gold next week at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Given that Canada has yet to win an Olympic medal of any hue in luge, the risk is obviously minimal. But as a sport that has improved markedly over the past four years, who knows?

"It's the Olympics, we're going to be trying as hard as we can regardless," said Alex Gough, who has had a handful of top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit this year, including a pair of fourth-place finishes.

"Whether there's a million out there or not, we have to put it all on the line. It would be a sweet deal if it happens though."

Fast Track, an Alberta-based financial education company, is also putting up $50,000 for a silver or bronze and $5,000 for the top Canadian in each of the four Olympic events.

THERE'S HOPE

The best hope comes from 22-year-old Gough, who is competing in her second Olympics and enters the competition ranked No. 7 in the world. With more runs on the new course here, Gough certainly has a home-track advantage, but given her youth and the strong German team -- which has swept the podium the past two Games -- the odds remain long.

For the rest of the Canadian team, the pot of gold does little more than bring attention to their sport.

"We have been doing this for so long that the financial motivation is an afterthought," Ian Cockerline said. "Our cake is the Olympics and throwing down four of the best runs of our career."

The men's singles competition takes place Saturday and Sunday followed by the women on Monday and Tuesday.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA

POLL