Lueders is a world champion

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

At 35, Pierre Lueders is still going strong.

The Edmonton native has been a member of Canada's national bobsleigh team for the past 15 years.

He's a world champion. An Olympic champion. And six-time World Cup overall champion.

This season, Lueders is back stronger and faster than ever.

As the pilot of Canada's top two- and four-man entries, expectations are high for the country's most decorated bobsleigher.

"Pierre has improved himself, which is not easy with all respect, because of his age," said Gerd Grimme, head coach of the Canadian bobsleigh team.

"He's faster than last year and he's as fast as he has been since the 2002 Olympics. It takes him so much more to get to this point, but he understands, he's a professional and knows that it's important for him to be in that kind of shape."

Having reached the pinnacle of his sport with a gold-medal performance in the two-man event back in 1998, Lueders has maintained his place at the top of the bobsleigh World Cup standings.

Last season Lueders won three two-man World Cup events on his way to a second-place overall finish. He also won a four-man World Cup event, finishing third in the overall standings.

In total, Lueders has finished first in the World Cup standings five times in the two-man event, and won the four-man event once.

"He's organized, he's a very good athlete and physically he's a talent," Grimme said.

"He's strong and he has such a huge pool of experience.

''All that helps him a lot to focus on the important things and not worry too much about the things that aren't all that important.

''The young kids sometimes have problems figuring out what is important now and what we can do later."

BIG THINGS

With the 2006 Olympics on the horizon, Lueders is looking forward to big things this season in both the two- and four-man events.

This weekend, Lueders began the World Cup season in Calgary.

"For me, the World Cup races are just as important as they were last year or the year before," Lueders said.

"For me it's all about getting on a good role and getting good momentum going into the Olympics. If you don't have any success at the World Cup, it's very unlikely you'll have any success at the Olympics."

Success won't be limited to the two-man event for Lueders. With Lascelles Brown, Ken Kotyk, Morgan Alexander and Florian Linder, Canada's top four-man entry is also expected to do well this season.

SOME CONSISTENCY

"This is the first season we've had a little bit of consistency with the four-man team," said Grimme. "That was one of our problems in the years past. We were switching too much around and new guys were coming in too often.

"Our competition, especially the Germans and the Swiss, have shown us that consistency is a factor in performance as well. These guys are all healthy, they have improved a lot compared to last year. Consistency at a high level is important in a team sport."

As the leader of that team, Lueders is the biggest influence on the younger athletes. His work ethic is infectious.

His experience - invaluable.

"It's surprising how smooth the runs are with Pierre," said Brown, originally from Jamaica, but now competing for Canada.

"When you drive with Pierre, you can just sit back and relax. When you are with another driver you have to hang onto the sled hoping that it doesn't flip or something like that. With Pierre, you can just relax and take a nice ride down."

The key to Olympic success for Lueders and his crew is staying competitive on the World Cup circuit.

"We want to have good consistent results and try to be as many times as we can in the top three, so that the guys are familiar with what it's like to be in the top three week in and week out," Lueders said.

"That's important, having a good momentum going in there. It sounds very simple and basic but you try not to make it too stressful for the young guys.

"For a lot of them, except for myself, it'll be their first exposure to an Olympics, so I try not to talk about that too much and try and keep it as normal as possible."

Needless to say, as a 15-year veteran, the question arises as to how long Lueders will continue to bobsleigh.

"Another week for sure," he said.

"I'll make my decision after the Olympics or even there, I don't know. I really haven't decided one way or the other. Right now I'm taking it year by year."


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