Not 'pushy' enough

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

CALGARY -- "What a @#$%& nightmare!'' The last thing you expected when Pierre Lueders took off his helmet here yesterday was for him to curse and kick his sled.

"I'm waiting! I'm waiting! My push bar won't go down! My push bar won't go down!'' he said to his pushers as he emerged from the sled.

The Edmonton pilot, who won the two-man World Bobsleigh Championship here last weekend, had just finished his second run in the four-man and was sitting in second place, a mere 13/100ths of a second behind Germany's Andre Lange.

If his push bar had folded into the sled, as normal, Lueders could have been in the lead heading into today's final two runs.

It took Lueders about 10 minutes of examining the bars, which 999 times out of 1,000 disappear into the configuration of the sled when the four sledders load themselves and the brakeman pushes a plunger.

"The push bar was on the friggin' wall,'' he explained of the apparatus which extends about a foot outside the body of the bob.

"That's brutal for time. The run itself was good.

''The guys gave me a great start. But we're not talking seconds here. We're talking 100ths of seconds. I don't know where we'd be, but it wouldn't be 13/100th of a second back.''

Lueders, who said it was neither a mechanical failure or human failure but "just bad luck'' is attempting to become the first Canadian ever to do the double and win the two-man and four-man events in the same world championships.

THREE STRAIGHT TITLES?

Lange is attempting to become the first driver in history to win three consecutive world championships in the four-man.

Lueders won the two-man here last weekend by 14/100ths of a second over Lange.

"It's not an insurmountable lead they have,'' said Lueders, who has a .23 edge on third place Alexandr Zoubkov of Russia and .26 on Martin Annen of Switzerland.

While he felt like going home and kicking his dog, it was a day when Lueders actually proved he's one of the greatest bobsled drivers of all time.

The bottom line is, despite what happened to him, he had the second-fastest time in the heat.

Lueders, who won a gold medal in the two-man at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, didn't exactly do it with his driving.

"I'm a much better driver now,'' he conceded, away from the media mob.

"In '98, you can't compare. Skills are always developing. I'm a much better driver now than I've ever been.''

To win this and become the first Canadian to win both the four-man and two-man titles at the world championships, Lueders has to do it driving.

START DEFICIENCY

"We knew coming in that we'd have to make up a bit of a start deficiency,'' he said.

After the first run here yesterday, Lueders was a mere .05 back, despite giving up .04 on the start. Lueders lost .02 at the start on the second run.

Lascelles Brown, Morgan Alexander and Ken Kotyk are doing great, but they're still green. Alexander and Kotyk, both from Saskatchewan, are each 23.

"These guys haven't reached their limits yet. We're not going to have the fastest starts. They load well and sit well. And they're getting better every day. I have to believe we're going to get faster,'' said Lueders.

They've been getting faster every week.

It's been a slower process for Lueders driving. But he's arrived. Really arrived.

"He's much more mature and physically much better than when we won the gold in the two-man in Nagano,'' said Nagano gold-medal partner Dave MacEachern.

"He's the best pusher, as a driver, in the world now.

''He's in the best shape of his life. And he's really there now as a driver.

"Remember, we ended up tied for first in Nagano and they gave double gold medals. We had a combined advantage of 38/100ths on our start times. A lot of people in the sport suggested that should never have happened, that we should have won easily, and pointed to Pierre's driving.

"Now he's really refined his driving.

"Whatever happens here, after watching what we've already watched, I'm really excited for Pierre for the Olympics next year. I know he doesn't like to hear stuff like this, but I think he'll double-medal at the Olympics. He can win two gold medals.''

But first things first.


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