Lueders shows he still has the right stuff

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

The old dog proved yesterday that he's not ready to crawl into a corner and quietly expire.

Of course, Pierre Lueders rarely does anything quietly.

The 39-year-old Canadian winter sport legend made some noise yesterday, bouncing back from a ninth-place showing in Park City, Utah last week to finish fourth in the World Cup two-man bobsled event yesterday in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Lueders and brakeman David Bissett of Lethbridge, Alta., slid down the Mount Van Hoevenberg course in one minute, 54.23 seconds, just 32-100th of a second out of third, while overcoming a skid approaching the third curve. The event was won by American John Napier, who crossed the line in 1:53.62, just ahead of U.S. teammate Steve Holcomb and Ivo Ruegg of Switzerland, who was third.

The other Canadian team, Lyndon Rush and Lascelles Brown, were seventh. Rush won the four-man World Cup race last week in Park City, Utah, with Brown, Chris Le Bihan and Dan Humphries.

CLOSE BUT ...

Finishing fourth is said to be worse than placing out of the top 10, because you're so agonizingly close to a medal. But the good news for Lueders yesterday was that he and Bissett posted the fastest start time of the day (5.11 seconds) in the second run and also were very quick (5.15 seconds) in the first run.

As head coach Tuffy Latour said, Lueders is still in the game, and now it's just about fine-tuning his driving.

There also is the promise of further help along the way. Edmonton Eskimos running back Jesse Lumsden of Burlington, Ont., will be joining Lueders for the next stop in Igls, Austria, giving Lueders a choice of three brakemen, Lumsden, Bissett and Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C.

Lumsden and Lueders won the Canadian championship last season, before the football player suffered a season-ending shoulder injury early in the CFL season.

By winning the four-man World Cup in Park City, Rush threw down the gauntlet, setting up a huge rivalry within the Canadian team.

But Latour insisted yesterday that, despite some less than flattering words last week by Brown towards his former pilot Lueders, the rivalry will (hopefully) remain civil, adding that two strong teams competing for one country is a good thing.

"We're trying to enforce with everybody on the team that positive rivalries will make us better," Latour said.

For his part, Lueders told reporters yesterday that he actually was excited about Rush's breakthrough World Cup win in Utah.

"I thought it was a great result," he said. "It's been 15 years since another Canadian has won a race, so, it was exciting to see. I'd rather see a Canadian on top of the podium than the same old Germans, Russians and Swiss. And, of course, there's motivation for me (going into the four-man race, today in Lake Placid)."

Napier's win yesterday reinforces the idea that a home track is a huge advantage in bobsled.

Napier's father Bill was the former president of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and the 22-year-old grew up within walking distance of the Mount Van Hoevenberg course. Napier's mother walked him down the track when he was all of two weeks old. Latour said the American's victory is exciting because it demonstrates to the Canadian team just how much of an advantage they'll have on the Whistler course at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Certainly, a medal at the Games would cap off Lueders' spectacular career. The Edmonton native already has made two Olympic podium trips, including winning a gold in the two-man event at the 1998 Nagano Games. He has also captured 85 World Cup medals.

"We're trying to make sure that Pierre's seeing only the Olympic Games as the ultimate goal, and not one of these World Cups," Latour said. "Nobody remembers the world champion."

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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