Soldiers of fortune

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Lucky Pierre.

It's been a while since anyone called him that. But Canada's Pierre Lueders became the World Cup bobsled champion for the sixth time in his career yesterday.

It took a little luck.

OK, maybe a lot.

Well, quite possibly nobody has ever won a World Cup title with as much luck.

"It's not my fault there are guys who are afraid to race here,'' said the Edmonton pilot, who combined with new Canadian citizen Lascelles Brown to take the two-man title in Altenberg, Germany, yesterday.

"This place scared a lot of people away. A lot of teams don't like coming here at all.

"Being the last race before the Olympics, some people went to hide, some people went to rest and I don't know about the rest. Maybe some were scared of being injured.''

Lueders needed the Olympic favourite to withdraw because of illness, the World Cup points leader to inexplicably take a pass on the event, three other top competitors to take a pass, as well as the right combination of results, to make it happen.

"To be honest, I didn't even think about being the World Cup champion again until we were,'' laughed Lueders.

While Russian Alexander Subkov won the race and Germany's Matthias Hoepfner finished second, the combination was perfect to make Lueders and brakeman Brown the World Cup champions by finishing third.

THAT'S THEIR CALL

"I couldn't care less about the rest. If they figure it's better to sit around Europe for three weeks, that's their call,'' said Lueders specifically of Todd Hays of the U.S., who went into the final event with the World Cup lead and stayed away.

"I'm a race-day guy. I've always been a race-day guy. I love race day. I couldn't imagine sitting around in my hotel room for three weeks, waiting for the Olympics. I figure I'm here in Europe, there's a race on the schedule, let's race,'' said Lueders who won his previous titles in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2003.

The bronze was his 68th World Cup medal.

Lueders had only one victory this season in two-man, the front end of the first sweep of two-man and four-man events two weekends earlier in Konigssee, Germany. He had only two other podiums in seven events.

How does that get you a World Cup championship?

Lucky Pierre, again.

"There hasn't been anyone really dominant winning three or four races this year. When I won the World Cup the other times, it always took three or four wins. I'm sure a lot were playing the games that bobsledders have always played on Olympic years. And this year, this track and this spot on the schedule scared a lot of teams away. This is the most technical track in bobsleigh and it's faster than it's ever been.''

BROWN'S BIG DAY

Lueders said when you've won five, six isn't that big a deal. But he said he loved the fact Brown won his first World Cup title as a Canadian citizen.

"That's the best part of this,'' he said.

Brown made the trip from the site in the former East German city to the Canadian Embassy in Berlin on Tuesday, where he took his oaths. Lucky Lascelles, too.

His citizenship didn't come through until last week.

Without it he wouldn't have been able to compete for Canada at the Olympics.

Germany's Andre Lange, who Lueders says is favoured to win Olympic gold by most of the competitors, withdrew due to illness.

"He was here. He was going fast, This is one of Germany's home tracks and he was flying in training before he left. But he got sick and it was bad enough he had to leave.''

Swiss pilot Martin Annen, who won both two-man and four-man events at the Torino Olympic site last year with Lueders second in both, took a pass on Altenberg, too.

"The Swiss don't like it here either. They've had a lot of heavy crashes here.''

Can Lucky Pierre get lucky again today?

"I haven't looked. Maybe with all this, we can win the four-man World Cup championship, too.''

Yup. That's there, too, for Lucky Lascelles and Lucky Pierre.


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