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It's a friendly competition

Calgary trio aiming to crack top 10 on the World CupTerry Bell, The Province
Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The 2008-09 World Cup luge season will open Nov. 29 in Austria, and once again Ian Cockerline, Sam Edney and Jeff Christie will be doing everything they can to beat each other.

That's been the drill since 2002, when they first started competing on the World Cup circuit together. It's lots of time and plenty of races to build both a heated rivalry and an excellent friendship.

Whether it's travelling the world together like they did after the 2006 Olympics, or patching each other up after a spectacular crash, luge is a shared experience for the three Calgarians.

"It's kind of a privilege for us because we're best friends," says Edney, 24, of the World Cup experience.

"There's not very many jobs that you can do where you get to travel around with your two best friends and see the world and represent Canada. We all know that we're pretty lucky." After the 2006 Games in Turin the trio went to Holland, Dubai, London, Paris and Dublin before returning home.

"We called it our world tour," says Cockerline, also 24. "We hit Holland. We had friends we could stay with there for free.

Jeff and I had all of our air-plan points so we visited some of Jeff's friends in Dubai. We stayed there for free.

"We were going to London to visit a British slider and we stopped in Paris. We had to pay for a hotel in Paris but we stayed for free in London and then popped into Dublin because the only flight home that we could afford was out of Dublin.

"It was a budget tour, of course." Well, of course. These are lugers, not NHLers. But it was also a fun time and the kind of experience that builds friendships.

"It's a great relationship," says Christie, 25. "It was one thing to be at the Olympics, but to be there with your two best friends made it even better." This season each member of the trio is hoping to start cracking the top 10 on the World Cup, which has two Canadian stops -- Feb. 9-15 in Calgary and Feb. 16-22 at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Christie had five top-15 finishes in six races last year. Edney was ninth at world championships and Cockerline 15th, both personal bests.

But beating Europeans is only half the fun. They're also competitive against each other.

"Sam and Jeff both know that I want to beat them and I know that they don't want to get beat by me," says Cockerline. "We're pretty clear about that." Edney says the competitiveness carries over into training.

"It goes from the weight room to the track," he says. "I see Jeff lift a lot of weight and I want to do that. It carries over to track. If Jeff sets down a time I want to be there or in front of him." They battle it out on PlayStation. They share summer vacations at home, heading into the Rocky Mountains or to Edney's cottage in Ontario. When the team is on the road they often room together, three crammed into one room.

"Seven weeks on the road is much better when you have two friends with you," says Christie. "You can compete hard and then go out for dinner or hit a movie and then you're just friends again." And then there's the medical part. The team is better funded now because of programs like Own the Podium but it wasn't long ago when Canada's six-person team (three women, three men) was pretty much a solo outfit when it was out there on the circuit.

"I remember Sam crashed about three years ago and pretty much cut a hole in side of his foot and I bandaged it up for him," says Doc Christie. "He broke his thumb and I wrapped it up for him.

"I smacked my head and they notice it and make sure I'm OK. We're there for each other." goryy@gurcebivapr.pbz

© The Vancouver Province 2008