Luge Canada

Calgary Lugers Sliding Closer To Olympics

By KAREN CLARK -- Calgary SunIt's so close they can taste it.

They need four top-nine finishes on the World Cup circuit for an Olympic berth.

They have three.

And for Calgary luge pair Chris Moffat and Eric Pothier, being so close to a dream seems almost worse than being far.

"When we were two races away from making it, the pressure was on," said 6-ft. 3-in., 200-lb. Moffat. "But now the pressure is bigger and it hurts more because it feels like we're always just missing it."

No exaggeration, the sliders are just missing it.

Moffat and Pothier were two thousandths of a second from Olympic qualification at World Cup 3 in La Plagne, France, last Sunday. And they crossed the line in a best-ever, sixth spot on Dec. 3 in Oberhof, Germany, at World Cup 2.

"We've got 10 more chances to do it," said 5-ft. 11-in., 155-lb Pothier. "But we really want to get it done so we can focus on the Olympics and getting ready," said Moffat.

The pair's goal is to place top five in the world prior to the Games.

"Once we've done that we'll set our sights on the next goal and make it even higher," said Pothier.

And considering it's only the 21-year-old's second year on the senior national team, they're sliding-up pretty fast.

Moffat and Pothier were paired together in '98. They won their inaugural Junior World Cup two weeks later and came second overall that season.

But despite the rapid ascension to the ranks of the elite, it took the sliders until the world championships last year to "start clicking."

"I'm on the top, so I'm Eric's eyes down the track," said Moffat. "If I roll back, he now knows to roll back, because we're late coming out of a corner and we're about to hit the wall."

Moffat is the driver -- the one on top, if you will. And he wants a point clarified.

"I sit on his feet, not on his lap."

Moffat weighs about 50 lbs. more than Pothier. Both lugers are about average size for a top and bottom slider.

"If (Pothier) is in the sled, then the wind only has to go over one body, it's aerodynamics," said Moffat. "I'm like a little hood ornament."

Maybe like a big hood ornament?

Oddly enough, it's the bottom slider who has the most power by virtue of being grounded in the sled. It's the top slider who essentially drives the luge.

"It's pretty scary on top," said Pothier. "I have to pick up on Chris' movements because there's not a lot of talking going down the track."

And the sliders have to work together to clock times up to 135 km/h, and to ensure a safe line down the track.

"We've never had any serious crashes," said Pothier. "Just a couple of little flips."

Flips aside, Moffat and Pothier are very, very close to securing a spot on the 2002 team.

And when that final, seemingly elusive top-nine finish is recorded.

"A huge weight will be lifted off our shoulders," said Moffat. "It will be a good day -- a great day."

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Copyright (c) 2000 The Calgary Sun and Karen Clark
karen Clark won a silver medal in synchro swim at the '96 Olympics