Upperton packs up

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

They may be competing on their home track but Helen Upperton and Lesa Mayes-Stringer are doing everything to make it feel like they're away.

The two Canadian bobsled pilots, who both live in Calgary, are staying at a hotel this week as they prepare for today's first two heats of the FIBT world championships (Canada Olympic Park, 9 a.m.).

Naturally, with the event in Calgary, the athletes have friends and family visiting. Upperton said their houses are quite crowded, so it's easier to stay focused at the hotel.

"Lots of us on the team have people from out of town that have come to stay and the houses are a bit hectic," said the 25-year-old Calgarian, who is stayin near COP.

"We're nice and close and the team's together, so you're not ever looking for anybody and it's kind of quiet and you can keep to yourself a bit more."

After the World Cup season, Upperton said she's used to living out of a suitcase, so it's not a big deal.

Upperton won't be with her usual brakeman, Calgary's Kaillie Simundson, who is still recovering from an injury she sustained during a crash in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

That means Jill Salus of Crowsnest Pass will be pushing for Upperton, whose best finish of the season was ninth place at the Olympic track in Cesana Pariol, Italy.

It's only Upperton's second season on the World Cup circuit and she's still learning the art of driving, so a top-five result this weekend would be fabulous.

"There's four runs, so I just want to stay consistent on each run and drive the best I can, and if I do, it should be pretty good," said Upperton, who finished 11th overall on the World Cup circuit.

Piloting Canada 1 will be Mayes-Stringer, 36, who hails from North Battleford, Sask.

She'll have 19-year-old brakeman Jamie Cruickshank of Saskatoon pushing for her.

Mayes-Stringer finished ninth overall on the season and her best results on the World Cup circuit were three eighth-places.

This weekend's favourite has to be Germany's Sandra Prokoff-Kiriasis, who won the overall World Cup title, owns the track record at COP and has claimed three of the last four World Cups in Calgary.

The men's four-man championship begins tomorrow as Calgary's Pierre Lueders looks to duplicate the world gold medal he won in two-man last weekend.


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