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Running up their mileage

Building 'run volume' tops the agenda at WhistlerTerry Bell, The Province
Published: Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Regina's Meaghan Simister spent part of her 22nd birthday training on the luge course at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Monday.

Right now there's no place she'd rather be.

With the countdown to the 2010 Olympics now down to a mere 458 days, Simister and the rest of Canada's improving luge team are trying to get as much experience as they can on the Olympic course.

"The more run volume I get, the better," the birthday girl said Monday at a press conference in Whistler to announce Canada's eight member 2008-09 Viessmann World Cup team.

"I love this track," added Simister, who turned in an impressive ninth place finish at world championships last season. "It suits my abilities. It has a nice, flat start ramp which is great for me. It's not too technical but there are some tricky spots down at the bottom."

Simister has one of the fastest starts in the world. As her experience grows and her consistency improves she should inch closer and closer to the podium.

"If I'm not in the top five in the world on the start I'm disappointed," she said. "In luge, starts are crucial because if you have a fast start you don't have to gain time on the track, you're already in that podium position.

"My big goal this year is to gain consistency. If I focus on getting my skills up to snuff I can perform with the top eight, the top five, the top three, I think I can be right up there because my starts are over and above what a lot of my competitors have."

Wolfgang Staudinger, the German who took over as Canada's head coach prior to the 2007-08 season, agrees.

"Meaghan, from an athletic point of view, is top notch and comparable to the best in the world," said Staudinger, who drove the team hard through an intense summer training regimen.

"She's still young. She went on the international circuit at a young age but what she's lacking is the run volume. She needs the mileage."

Joining Simister on the women's team are Calgary's Alex Gough, who broke her leg and missed last season, and Red Deer, Alta.'s Regan Lauscher, who had surgery on both shoulders at the end of the 2007-08 season. Lauscher won't be ready to compete until the new year.

"It was a gruelling year," said Lauscher, 28, a two-time Olympian who won a silver medal on the World Cup circuit at Lake Placid, N.Y., in 2004.

"My shoulders felt the worst that they've ever felt. I felt I was racing injured all the time and in a lot of pain. I never really felt last year that I got into the start handles when I was at my best and ready to be competitive.

"It wasn't one crash. It was an accumulation. It was 15 years of doing this sport and being as aggressive with our shoulders as we are."

Calgarians Jeff Christie, 25, Sam Edney, 24, and Ian Cockerline, 24, make up the men's team. Calgary's Moffat brothers, Chris and Mike, had three top-10 results in doubles last year.

Christie had five top-15 finishes in six races last year. Edney and Cockerline both had personal-best world championship finishes last year with Edney finishing ninth and Cockerline 15th.

The World Cup season opens Nov. 29-30 at Igls, Austria. The circuit comes to Whistler Feb. 16-22.

goryy@gurcebivapr.pbz
© The Vancouver Province 2008