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Luge season preview

Posted Tuesday, November 17, 2009 3:55 PM ET
CTVOlympics.ca

As the world's top lugers get ready for the first World Cup races of the season this weekend in Calgary, Olympic analyst Chris Wightman weighs in on the Canadian team's preparations and gains... and whether Canada's lugers will bring home World Cup medals this season.

Looking at the Canadian women first, Meaghan Simister has said the team is feeling especially strong going into this season. What can we expect out of them this year?

I think the big thing is that it's the second summer that Wolfgang Staudinger has been training them. They've always been strong on starts and they're even stronger, now.

Meaghan's got a fantastic start. she's always had a world class start.

Regan Lauscher is coming off of surgery and she's had her first full summer on dry-land training so she should be stronger than ever.

And Alex Gough is, in my opinion, the biggest beneficiary of the off-ice training in getting her starts so powerful.

And on the Canadian men's side?

From the men's side of things, they've rebuilt their sleds this year and that's going to make another big jump for them. From all accounts, they're faster sleds than they were last year, so that should move them again another few tenths-of-a-second up the results. A few tenths-of-a-second, that moves you three or four spots up.

That, combined with faster starts, and they should have jumped a good six, seven, eight spots over the past two years, so that's what I'm looking to see during the World Cup season.

Jeff Christie consistently being in the top-10 and Ian Cockerline and Sam Edney, right near the top-10 mark. Once you're in that top-10, it depends on the day and it depends on the confidence you feel. And, from what I'm hearing, there's no reason the Canadians shouldn't feel confident.

Looking at luge doubles, Canada's Moffat brothers - Chris and Mike - it's been the first summer since his wrist injury that Chris has been able to really train full out.

To feel healthy and to actually feel that your body is back in one piece is a huge thing. You could sort of see that last year. They missed the first part of the year due to that injury and getting back into sliding form takes a while. Again, it's about the confidence that you feel when you're up on the start block.

Maybe take that risk to get a little bit more time. I think last year they were being very careful and taking more conservative lines and not taking the risks they needed to succeed.

They should easily be in the top-six and, once you get up there, anything can happen.

The German women have been so dominant in luge. In 2010 they'll be trying for their third straight Olympic podium sweep in the event. Can they be dethroned?

The fact of the home track advantage is such a big thing. If you want to catch someone, especially the German women, you have to be opportunistic with them to beat them. When the guard's down, you can jump in and upset them. If there's a chance it's definitely the home track advantage that's going to do it.

If you look at the World Cup from last year, it looks like (the German women) do like the track, so that's a bit of a tougher hill to climb. There is a home track advantage and Alex Gough and the rest of the Canadian women have got to take advantage of that and be right at their heels.

Who are the major international players on the men's side?

Armin Zöggeler continues to be the dominant force. Last year he won, what, five of the nine races? And he's just- he's unbelievable. He hasn't missed a beat and I continue to see him as the dominant force.

Germany's David Möller continues to excel and continues to have extremely consistent sliding. He won the World Cup race in Whistler, so again, a favourite there. He obviously knows the track and likes it.

But the guy I really like is Felix Loch from Germany. He's a junior who has come out of nowhere. He won the last two world championships. He's a big-race performer and he's done that two years in a row and he's certainly somebody I'm looking at. If anybody is going to knock off Zöggeler, it's going to be Felix Loch.

Would you predict medals from Canadians on the World Cup circuit this year?

That's a great question. I think we should see something from Alex, I hope. Alex Gough is, in my opinion, the one who's closest to getting on the podium.

If Regan can get back into form, she's been on the podium before and she's anxious to get back up to that elite level. She's easily got the talent, it's just about being able to put it all together again.

The luge World Cup season begins Friday, Nov. 17, in Calgary.