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Mojo Rising

Dan Toth, Calgary SunThe USA medal drought will soon be over, now that Captain Mojo done took over. -- Arctic Evel Knievels by Mojo Nixon

Alternative rocker Mojo Nixon can't take complete credit for Americans last winter ending a 34-year medal drought in Olympic luge.

After all, the men's luge doubles of Gordy Sheer and Chris Thorpe (silver) along with Brian Martin and Mark Grimmette (bronze) made a commitment to training hard and focusing on a medal breakthrough in Nagano. They also had along their lucky, if somewhat gaudy, lime-yellow competition suits and had memorized the mantra imparted on them by a sports psychologist ("Lose yourself to find yourself").

Sheer and Thorpe were also world champions in 1996-97 and Martin and Grimmette clinched the '97-98 title.

But, just maybe, it was a little Mojo inspiration that pushed the men's teams faster.

The four free-spirited sledders, at COP this weekend for the Viessmann Luge World Cup, felt the need for an honourary captain prior to the '98 Games.

After all, the U.S. volleyballers already had Hollywood star Tom Selleck as their poster boy, so why not take a flyer on an off-kilter rocker more fitting their style?

Sheer, a drummer with his own band and an unabashed Nixon fan, took charge.

"One day, I decided to crank out a letter to Mojo's manager," explained Sheer, a Californian who latched onto luging years ago through a newspaper ad. "We asked Mojo 'why don't you be our honourary team captain?' "

Before long, Nixon answered."He said we must be great American 'nutjobs' and agreed the partnership seemed like a nice fit."

The sledders dashed off to Nixon's San Diego recording studio where he penned in their honour the little ditty Arctic Evel Knievels which now serves as the teams' theme song. Nixon recorded the number
with the four lugers providing backup "chanting."

The perfect ending would have had the track racing up the Billboard charts, but it hasn't actually made it onto an album yet. In fact, the only thing that's taken off since the recording session is the careers of the four star-spangled sledders.

After a disappointing season leading up to Nagano in which Thorpe broke his wrist just weeks before the Games, Sheer and Thorpe stunned the men's doubles luge field with a silver-medal showing at Nagano, just edging Martin and Grimmette, who finished with bronze.

"I don't think we're crazy," pleads Sheer, a communications graduate from Ohio State, despite what many would feel is evidence to the contrary.

"We do some weird stuff and we like to have fun, but we have to train hard in the summer, so there's no time for anything too wacky."

Adds Thorpe: "We don't want an image like we're crazy -- not like snowboarding," said the tanned, 29-year-old who attends college at the luging hotbed of Daytona Beach, Fla. "We take this very seriously and we're good athletes, but we definitely like to have fun."

Martin and Grimmette, who claimed the bronze in yesterday's knockout-format LuK Challenge Cup doubles, also bristle at the suggestion they don't fit the luge mould.

"I don't see us as so off the wall," insists Martin, 25. "We like to have fun, but you have to take it seriously."

And all four will again be serious medal contenders in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Yesterday, the German men's doubles of Steffen Skel and Steffen Woller claimed the gold while Germans Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch won silver.

In men's singles, Germany's Georg Hackl won gold ahead of Italy's Armin Zoeggeler (silver) and Karsten Albert of Germany (bronze).

In women's singles, Germany's Sylke Otto established a Calgary track record for women at 44.532 seconds to claim gold while Germany's Barbara Niedernhuber won silver and Angelika Neuner of Austria settled for bronze.

No Canadian sledders had enough World Cup points to qualify for the Challenge Cup.

The Viessmann World Cup continues today at COP with ladies singles and men's doubles beginning at 9 a.m.

Original>http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWinterSports/dec11_moj.html">Original article in >http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWinterSports"> Canoe Slam Winter Sports
Reprinted with permission from The Calgary Sun
Copyright (c) 1999 The Calgary Sun and Dan Toth