Canada 1 grabs Day 1

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:55 PM ET

CALGARY -- Canada 1 is in position to become Canada 2-in-a-row. Pierre Lueders long ago went where no Canadian ever went before in bobsledding, but he may be about to go there again.

A Canadian has never won a world bobsled championship at home. Lueders is now two runs away from defending his title, despite himself.

The Edmonton pilot made a mess of his first run, but came close to perfection in his second and takes the lead into tonight's final two runs of the World Bobsled Championships.

Lueders became the first Canadian to win a two-man World Bobsled Championship last year and did it by beating the Germans on their own track in Koenigssee.

For a while there it looked like Germany's Rene Spies, coming off a back injury but putting up terrific times all week in practice, was going to turn the tables on him after a first place first run of 54.64, a full 0.13 seconds ahead of Lueders fifth-place trip down the 1,499-metre, 14-turn track in the event involving 37 sleds from 24 nations.

But with former bobsledder Prince Albert of Monaco on the property, Lueders was back in business with Canada 1 before the day was done.

"Things happened to me in multiples of threes,'' said Lueders of the first run, which left him in fifth place.

"I screwed up corners three, six and nine. But, hey, 12 was good!

"All of a sudden I screwed up corner three on that first run, and I know when you do that on this track it just kills you,'' said the 32-year-old who was one of five gold-medal winners for Canada at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

"I knew half-way down,'' said the son of Kate and Heinz Lueders of Edmonton of the sense he was going to put one together.

While his numbers of 54.77 and 54.78 would indicate otherwise, the track is always significantly slower for the second run because of the number of sleds to take the trip down the track.

Lueders was first after the first two runs last year.

"I can't compare anything here to last year,'' said Lueders. "It's such a different race and different environment.

"But it's great to be at home. It's nice to compete before my family and friends here.

"And my German fan club is here!' There are nine of them who came overseas for the event.''

As Lueders shot from from fifth to first after his second run, Switzerland 2, piloted by Ivo Ruegg, moved from sixth to second.

Andre Lange of Germany ended up third with Martin Annen of Switzerland, who beat Lueders out for the World Cup championship this year, sitting fourth and Spies dropping to fifth.

Lueders has a .05 lead on Ruegg, .08 edge on Lange, .13 margin over Annen and .17 lead on Spies.

"It's a four-heat race. I've been in these before. It's never won in one run. And it's never a cake-walk for anyone,'' said Lueders, who would have had his 64th World Cup win if this were the usual two-run deal.

"I'm glad to have that one bad run out of the way early. If I don't make any more silly mistakes like I made, who knows? But these guys are good bobsledders.''

Only the world championships and Olympics involve four runs over two days.

While Lueders could be headed into uncharted territory tonight, he'd have a long way to go to match the legendary Eugenio Monti of Italy or Christoph Langen who won eight and five world championships in the two-man event over the years.

Lueders, who finished second at the 1996 World Championships held here, has two other silvers at the world championships over the years. Monti won a total of 10 in his time and Langen eight.

But when it comes to Canadians, Lueders is those two guys and Wolfgang Hoppe rolled into one.

And he's clearly not done.


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