Lueders quiets his critics

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Done. Toast. Washed up.

Expiry date before Vancouver 2010.

Until yesterday, Canada 1 hadn't won. And Pierre Lueders could hear the whispers.

The 38-year-old bobsledder hadn't had a result all season, was disqualified last week for being overweight and had even rolled his sled and landed on top of his head twice.

OK, it was the sled that was one kilogram overweight last week in posting the fastest run in Konigssee, Germany -- not Lueders himself.

It was the only time a disqualification has happened in the career of the man who won Olympic gold in Nagano 1998 and silver in Tornio 2006.

And, Lueders was banged up during two early-season crashes, the first at Whistler and the second in Altenberg, Germany, which forced him to miss a week of racing and had him battling injury all year.

But rolling the four-man and having your guys going down the course on their heads like so many Jamaican bobsledders can bring on a lot of that talk, too.

"Fortunately, none of the talk was coming from anybody on our team," he said in a telephone interview yesterday from St. Moritz, Switzerland, after winning the two-man event.

KNOCK

"When you're down, people really want to knock you down," said the Edmonton pilot who won his 27th World Cup two-man race.

"I may be old, but I haven't lost my hearing yet," said the eight-time world champion who now has 86 World Cup medals in his collection.

"I know what they have been saying. I have a lot of people in low places who keep me informed. Other nations, when they see you down, really want to see you down," said Lueders, who is arguably Canada's most successful Olympic athlete ever.

"There were a lot of people counting me out, saying I was old and I should retire. But there's a lot of fight in me left. And I knew I could still be fast.

"But I have to admit that this is definitely a bit sweeter than some of my other wins because of the weird start we've had to the season."

It was an all-Edmonton combination as Lueders won the two-man event with David Bissett as his brakeman. They recorded the two fastest times of the day, the second setting a track record of 1:06.79.

Just being right-side-up all the way down was a good feeling, Lueders laughed.

Both crashes were in the four-man, where Lueders is about to begin competition in what will be the 200th World Cup race in his career.

"The first crash was in Whistler on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic run in one of our selection races. We went down the track on our heads and our sides," said Lueders.

"That's very difficult on people. The sleds today are pretty exposed. The G-force tends to pull you out. We had quite of bit of us hanging out of the sled.

"Then four weeks later, we went upside down again in Altenberg," he continued. "I had problems with my clavicle and my sternum. It wasn't my head. That was no problem -- it's hollow.

"But it's hard to sit in the sled when you have a bad collarbone and the guys behind you are wondering 'What's wrong with our driver?' "

Lueders could have blamed the Whistler course the first time.

UNFORGIVING

"It's super fast and very unforgiving. We're experiencing speeds there that we're not accustomed to; it's a new zone in terms of speeds on the track. It's going to cause a lot of problems and make it very challenging."

That said, the reason for the crash was difficult to dispute, he said.

"Driver error."

Altenberg?

"Driver error."

Sometimes the washed-up whispers you hear can be in your own head.

"Do you question yourself? Of course. You ask why these things are happening at this stage of your career. You question everything. The sled. The runners. The coaching. When things start going wrong you question everything," he said.

Lueders finally got past it all. He stopped questioning.

"I've been pretty fortunate. It's been a lot of years not having crashed at all. I heard stories of other guys crashing in some of their selection races, but it wasn't happening to me."

Maybe it'll be those other drivers going down the course on their heads next time.

It'll be interesting. The next official test event for the Olympics is a World Cup race in early February in Whistler.


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