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Cowboy Country

Tom Brennan, Calgary SunArmin hammers 'em everywhere, even Calgary.

But what should we expect from a guy known as 'Cowboy?'

"It's just a joke between all of us," explained a grinning Zoeggeler, who was whisked away to the awards ceremony before he could elaborate on the nickname.

Call him anything you like, it won't do justice to what Zoeggeler is doing to the Viessmann World Cup luge circuit. Five races, five straight victories, including yesterday's event at COP when Zoeggeler came from behind to overhaul German Karsten Albert for the gold.

The 25-year-old Italian from the South Tyrolian Alps has now built an all-but-insurmountable lead in the overall standings.

With two races left after New Year's, Zoeggeler owns a 100-point lead -- 100 is what a race winner gets -- over his closest pursuer, 1988 Calgary Olympic champ Jens Mueller of Germany, fourth yesterday.

The defending world champion could probably use a Canadian Tire special the rest of the way and still clinch.

"He is the very best at the moment," said three-time Olympic champ Georg Hackl of Germany, who turned in his best result of the season, capturing bronze. "Best at the start, best at driving down, and his sled is not so bad."

"A great slider," whistled Calgary's Tyler Seitz, who finished 17th. "Smooth, just so smooth."

COP, said Zoeggeler, "is not my favourite track." Even so, he's won two in a row here, capturing a '97 World Cup.

"It was difficult to win," offered the member of Caribinieri, Italy's military police force. "On this track, it is always very close together. Forty-five seconds, you can't really gain much on the way
down.

"Now it's (margin of victory) getting closer and closer."

Perhaps, but they haven't caught him yet.

Albert broke Mueller's track record on the first run, zipping down in 45.435 seconds, 5/100ths up on Zoeggeler. But the Italian was quickest in run No. 2, at 45.554. Albert was clocked in 45.630, not
good enough. Total times: 1.31.036 Zoeggeler, 1:31.065 Albert.

Zoeggeler has won two world titles ('95, '99) and two Olympic medals (silver in '98, bronze in '94). Last year, he was seventh in the World Cup, but missed some races.

Albert's silver was his first podium of the season. So was Hackl's bronze. "I'm very happy," declared Hackl. "It's always improving from race to race. From 10th to 9th to 5th to 4th, now third. It's OK."

Seitz wasn't so happy. The 23-year-old was poised to top his best-ever World Cup placing -- 15th -- after he was 10th in the opening run. But he was only 19th in run No.2, dropping him to a disappointing 17th.

"The first one felt really good," Seitz said. "I was a little cautious, which is a groove I need to get out of, not risking anything. In the second run, it was so tight between 5-to-15, well, I guess I risked it all.

"It's a learning experience. But it's my home track, I wanted to show everybody, show my sponsor, Bowness Auto Parts, a good result. I know I can do a top 3. These guys aren't that fast. When the world championships are here next year, I predict you'll see good results from this team."

Mueller runnerup to Zoeggeler the previous four races, was fourth, with Markus Prock of Austria fifth. Ex-Canadian Olympian Clay Ives, now sliding for the U.S. was eighth.

Other Canadians in the field of 38: Chris Moffat 20th, Eric Pothier 26th, Jorgen Krause 27th, Matt McMurray 28th. All are from Calgary.

Original>http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWinterSports/dec13_cow.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 Tom Brennan