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Cash wouldn't go to their heads

Lugers seeking help for big Games driveMarc Weber, The Province
Published: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

He wouldn't give a money-back medal guarantee, but Jeff Christie was willing to try his hand at a sexy slogan Monday.

"How about, 'If you invest in the market, you'll make seven per cent, but if you invest in us, it's pretty much priceless,'" the 26-year-old Calgarian said from Whistler as the Canadian team prepared for this weekend's Viessmann Luge World Cup.

OK, so maybe more schmaltzy than sexy, but these athletes are willing to try anything.

Canada's forgotten siblings of the sliding sports have plastered "FOR SALE" stickers to their helmets in an attempt to get corporate support before the Olympics.

They first donned the decals last week in Calgary, where they ran a community tobogganing event with the aim of making people realize we're all just a bunch of lugers, eh.

The Canadian Luge Association did receive significant Own the Podium money, but it lacks the sponsorship of bobsleigh and skeleton, and pretty much everyone else besides ski jumping and Nordic combined. They're looking for $300,000 but will settle for less.

"The money is a big thing but also that relationship we can build with the company," said Christie. "If you look at our history, as the money's been put in our results have improved."

He had four top-10 finishes in 2006-07 and a sixth the following season. His best result this season is 12th. Alex Gough of Calgary is the rising star on the women's side with a fourth at the world championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Feb. 8.

Red Deer's Regan Lauscher, battling back from surgery on both shoulders, has the best-ever World Cup result by a Canadian, a second in 2005.

"Extra funding and more support is the difference when you're fighting for 1,000ths of a second," she said. "We've already come such a long way and we're so close to the Games. To show well in Vancouver at the Olympics, we realize what a unique opportunity it is."

Strong results this weekend would no doubt do a lot to back up their billboard tactics.

The team is taking this as a test event for 2010 and doesn't want to take on added pressure, but Vancouver-born Christie acknowledged the obvious.

"Results talk," he said.

"We can sit there and say this is what we need, but if we come through and show we are that close, I think it will really help our cause."

The women's luge (1 p.m.) and doubles competition (4:30 p.m.) is on Friday.

The men's luge on Saturday at 5 p.m. is already sold out.

zjrore@gurcebivapr.pbz
© The Vancouver Province 2009