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Italy's Zoeggeler clinches eighth World Cup luge title; Canadians disappointed

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Feb 14, 2009

CALGARY — Italy's Armin Zoeggeler clinched his eighth career World Cup overall title in luge and Canadian coach Wolfgang Staudinger said he got caught with his pants down Saturday at Canada Olympic Park.

Zoeggeler, the reigning Olympic champion, posted a two-run time of one minute 30.375 at the Viessman World Cup in Calgary.

Nicknamed "Il Cannibale" on the circuit, the 35-year-old policeman from Vollan-Lana clinched the season title with one race remaining in Whistler, B.C., next week.

"It was a good season to win five races," Zoeggeler said. "It's not the track for me, but it's a good day for me. I had two runs that were maybe perfect. Today I'm very happy."

World champion Felix Loch of Germany was second in 1:30.690 and Russian Albert Demtschenko was third in 1:30.796.

Jeff Christie was the top Canadian in 17th, followed by Sam Edney in 24th, Brendan Hauptman in 26th and Ian Cockerline in 29th. All are from Calgary.

Staudinger, who came to the Canadian team two years ago from the German national squad, said he was fooled by the frosty conditions at the COP track when it came to setting up the men's sleds.

"Calgary is usually a dry place where we never have frost," Staudinger said. "Usually we have wind. In Calgary, honest to God, I've never seen it and I got caught with my pants down.

"We failed today in our preparation of the sleds 100 per cent."

Zoeggeler, the Olympic champion in both 2002 and 2006, is closing in on the record of 10 overall World Cup titles held by Markus Prock of Austria. Even though COP isn't his favourite track, he was silky smooth sliding down it.

"This is just a display of luge art," Staudinger said. "You don't see any motion on the sled. He's always got the best position, the best aerodynamics and he's got the experience to respond, especially in a race like today, he knows exactly what to do."

Zoeggeler is a favourite to win gold on the Whistler track both next week and a year from now at the Olympic Games there. He intends to continue sliding to the 2011 world championship which will be on his home track in Cesana.

But he says he's not aiming for Prock's record.

"Ten is very, very (far) for me," he said. "It's very hard."

Christie has finished as high as fourth on his home track, so he was disappointed by Saturday's result.

"First run, I didn't slide the way I should in Calgary," said the 26-year-old. "The last run, it felt like a good run.

"I've been in the top six the last three years here, so to come in here and finish outside the top 15, it's definitely hard to take."

Christie didn't blame his sled set-up, but Staudinger did. He felt Christie slid well enough to finish in the top 10. The last opportunity to adjust the sled is about one hour before the race.

"Jeff and Sam did a good job. Small mistakes and it's absolutely not their fault," Staudinger said. "It just shows how much on the edge we are working and if you don't nail it down 100 per cent . . . it just shows it's an outside sport and that's to be learned from."

Staudinger found some solace in the fact that powerhouse Germany, with their five sled mechanics, also made the same mistake. German David Moeller won last year's race in Calgary but finished 11th.

Alex Gough of Calgary finished sixth in Friday's women's race, followed by Regan Lauscher of Red Deer, Alta., in 12th and Calgarians Meaghan Simister and Kimberley McRae in 18th and 20th respectively.