Luge Canada

Training shifts up a gear for sliders

Olympians make first runs on COP trackBy Sean Myers, Calgary Herald

Iced, shaped and ready to go, the sliding track at Canada Olympic Park is now open.

The Canadian national luge, skeleton and bobsled teams are lined up for practice times which began Tuesday morning with luge.

Medal contenders such as two-time Olympic bobsledding medallist Pierre Lueders are expected to take practice runs starting this week in preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

We have co-ordinated our schedule with the (track) in Whistler, said Bill France, vice-president of WinSport Canada, formerly known as the Calgary Olympic Development Association. This way we have certain athletes training in Whistler and certain athletes training in Calgary so they get the opportunity to train on both tracks.

Ian Cockerline said he was thrilled to get out on the track first thing Tuesday morning.

The men's luge competitor is anxious to get another crack at an Olympic medal after crashing during his fourth run at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino.

I definitely want to go back and redeem myself, said Cockerline, 25, who was born and raised in Calgary.

He said the cold weather this week is helping in his preparations.

It was a little slower than Whistler, but the ice was harder, more like the real luge conditions we'll see in February, said Cockerline. We've been training in Whistler for almost two weeks and it was pretty exciting to come back to Calgary and have the track ready with these kinds of conditions.

The luge team will be practising through Saturday and the national team will be named next week.

The track at COP has traditionally opened on the first day after Thanksgiving said France and this year the Whistler Sliding Centre - which opened earlier - was consulted to set up the training schedules for all the sliding sports.

We've communicated between all the national sport organizations - bob, luge and skeleton - and we've communicated with the Whistler track to make sure all our athletes are well prepared and have enough time on the track to train prior to 2010.

The Whistler facility will be the site of sliding events at the Olympics, so it is essential that all the athletes get some time on that track, which first opened in late 2007.

France said the recent cold weather has helped COP to open on time and with good conditions.

Our track is in very good shape, we've made ice for the last seven or eight days and scraped it down and formed it the way they want it, said France. The track is in excellent shape.

He noted that athletes training in Calgary have been able to spend the summer practicing their starts in the indoor Ice House facility at COP as well as complete their weight training.

A new, more sophisticated, camera system has been installed on the track featuring about 20 more cameras that cover the entire route allowing observers at the top to monitor for trouble during competitions and training runs.

The track will be open through the start of the Olympics on Feb. 12 and offers opportunities for the public to try their hand at sliding in any of the three disciplines.