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Tough sledding for Canadian luge racers

By Scott Cruickshank, Canwest News Service
February 14, 2009 10:01 AM

CALGARY - Regan Lauscher arrived at the finish line, red-nosed and hot under the collar.

The Red Deer, Alta., native was not pleased by her 12th-place finish in Viessmann Luge World Cup women's action Friday at Canada Olympic Park.

Because, Lauscher said, it is not only a cold she's fighting.

It's definitely frustrating to feel like you've been doing your job, Lauscher said between hacking coughs. Equipment, obviously, plays a very big role in this sport. All the physical training in the world, all the strength in the world, if you don't have what you need under your ass. . . the clock's not going to be in your favour.

Hopefully, they start fixing things.

Lauscher, who declined to get into specifics, was asked point blank if perhaps Alex Gough - the Calgarian who finished fourth at the recent world luge championships - was getting more than her fair share of attention.

Rightfully so, she's been having some really great races, said Lauscher. It's obviously that elusive marriage between sledder and sled . . . that they've found for her. I hope - not just for me, but for the whole team - that we figure out everything.

It shouldn't just be one slider out on the hill going fast.

Lauscher did admit that this year's late start - off-season surgery on both shoulders kept her from racing till last month - is hampering her, too.

By no means do I think that I am where I need to be physically, said the two-time Olympian. I understand . . . it takes time, but I feel that given my start time and my sliding today, this (12th) place isn't fair.

Canadian coach Wolfgang Staudinger acknowledged that none of the sleds had been set up properly. They were geared for smooth ice, but snow fell Friday night.

Snowfall handicapped us a little bit, Staudinger said. Maybe a little bit my mistake because . . . we could've done possibly a little better.

As far as Lauscher's pointed criticism? Chalk it up to the anxiety of a veteran desperate to regain her form - with the 2010 Olympics a year away.

I can understand the frustration that Regan goes through, said Staudinger. The reason we left her behind in the fall was exactly for that reason - she's coming back from a bad shoulder injury. We knew that, and I think she maybe thought that she could overcome that handicap a little easier. About the sleds, all I can tell you is that we do the same for everybody else.

We're not purposely slowing anybody down. We make sure that everybody's on the same setup. Like in skiing, I'm sure everybody involved wants to make their athletes go as fast as possible. Her handicap is still the injury.

Meanwhile, the German women finally ended their slump - all one week of it.

After seeing their 99-race win streak stopped last weekend at the world championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., they quickly got back on pace.

Prevailing Friday was Tatjana Hufner, followed by teammate Natalie Geisenberger.

Third went to Austria's Veronika Halder.

Gough, 21, wound up in the sixth slot - a World Cup personal best that Staudinger heartily applauded.

She's cool. She's doing it, he said. I'm very happy. Overall, I can say - and see - that she's establishing herself consistently, not only in the top 10, but slowly into the top six. An excellent sign to see for me. It makes me extremely happy that I have one athlete that is able to do that.

Rounding out the Canadian contingent were Meaghan Simister in 18th and Kimberley McRae in 20th.

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