Better with age

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

He's won just about everything in his sport and yet ageless wonder Pierre Lueders continues to amaze.

With one year until the Turin Winter Games, the 34-year-old bobsled pilot from Edmonton is enjoying his finest campaign on the World Cup circuit.

Heading into this weekend's World Cup final in Lake Placid, N.Y., Lueders has medals from eight of 12 races, combining two and four-man sleds, and he says he's pretty proud of the results.

"It's one of the better seasons, that's for sure. We've had a really good year and with only 14 races in a year, it would be my most successful season in terms of how many World Cup medals we've won," said Lueders via telephone from the Lake Placid Olympic training centre.

The defending two-man world champion doesn't like looking too far into the future but two silver medals in Olympic test events in January at Cesana Pariol, Italy, on the Olympic track 90 km outside of Turin, sets him up nicely for 2006.

"We had pretty good success there in both events and you never really know what a new track will be like until you get there and so far, so good," said Lueders, last season's overall World Cup winner in two-man.

After winning two-man gold in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Lueders finished a disappointing fifth in the Salt Lake City Games four years later.

If the Olympics started tomorrow, Okotoks' Jayson Krause would pilot Canada's other Olympic two and four-man sleds.

Canada's female bobsleigh pilots, Calgary's Helen Upperton and North Battleford, Sask.'s Lesa Mayes-Stringer have had consistent top-15 results this season.

Several skeleton athletes may end up on the podium in Turin.

Canadians have dominated the World Cup circuit since the 2002 Winter Games and fans looking for Olympic hardware should keep an eye on Calgary's Duff Gibson.

The 38-year-old firefighter is the defending world champion but, more importantly, he won the Olympic test event last month in Cesana Pariol and Gibson said the technical track is made for him.

"This year I've had a ninth and an 11th but by the same token, I've had two wins and a very near silver, so I've continued to develop and I know now that I'm better at courses that demand really hard steering or are tracks that people consider to be very technical," said Gibson, who is third overall on the World Cup circuit.

Another slider with a good shot at a medal is Calgary's Jeff Pain, a former world champ and current World Cup points leader. Pain was third in the test event and can slide well on any track.

On the women's skeleton team, Calgary's Lindsay Alcock has posted the best results this season and possesses the best start in the world which should carry her a long way towards a medal.

Eckville, Alta.'s Melissa Hollingsworth, who has had some World Cup success, might just find herself with some hardware in 2006 after finishing fifth in the test event.

Then there's Fort St. John, B.C.'s Michelle Kelly, a former world champ who has battled injuries this year, specifically a bad knee.

If Kelly can get healthy, there's no question she's a medal contender and she said dealing with pain has made her change her technique.

"If I was having a good year, I would just go along with things but with the injuries, I've figured out a way to slide that might help me better and that's given me a little more fire to get ready for next year rather than just going with the status quo," said Kelly, 30, who is currently 11th on the World Cup circuit after finishing third overall last season.

While skeleton athletes go head first down the track, lugers speed down feet first. Unlike their sliding counterparts, the Canadian lugers are medal longshots in Italy.

"If we can bring back two medals, we'd be ecstatic," said Canadian luge head coach Walter Corey.

With her World Cup silver medal this season -- the best ever finish by a Canadian -- Red Deer's Regan Lauscher has the best shot at grabbing hardware.

In addition, the doubles team of Airdrie's Eric Pothier and Red Deer's Grant Albrecht, could get it together for Turin.


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