Lugers ready to take on the world 

Lugers break 148 km/h mark on world's fastest track, as Whistler hosts International Luge Week

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Athletes have known for a year that the Whistler Sliding Centre track is the fastest in the world, but even the athletes are surprised just how fast you can go.

Prior to Monday’s press conference, where the team was announced for the upcoming season after selection races in Calgary and Whistler, Jeff Christie posted a speed of over 148 km/h. With practice, it’s possible that a luge athlete will be able to break 150 km/h by the Olympics.

The course is open for International Luge Training week, Nov. 8-15. Teams from other countries have been invited to send athletes to train on the course. While the press conference was held, members of the Russian team were launching.

The Canadian team will include Christie, Sam Edney and Ian Cockerline on the men’s side, and Regan Lauscher, Meaghan Simister and Alex Gough on the women’s side. Brothers Chris and Mike Moffat make up Canada’s men’s tandem team.

Mike Moffat spoke on behalf of all the athletes, talking about the past summer of training.

The philosophy of coach Wolfgang Staudinger, recruited from the German program two years ago, is that luge medals are won in the summer.

“We’re looking for two things; strong starts and consistent runs,” said Moffat. “Finishing in the top-10 is no longer a pleasantry, but an expectation. We’re here to compete in every race, and we’re here to win.”

Moffat called the 2010 venue “spectacular”, and said that athletes are feeling fit and confident heading into this season where Canada hopes to qualify the maximum number of athletes and improve on last year’s results. Last year Canadians finished in the top-10 in all three categories — male, female and men’s doubles — at the world championships, and had three top-six results on the World Cup in addition to more appearances in the top-10. The goal this year is to regularly finish in the top-five in each category, and win some medals.

The team also nominated Whistler’s Thomas Chamberland as an honourary team members after Chamberland returned a bag to an athlete that fell off a truck. Chamberland was presented with a clothing package from Karbon, the team’s sponsor.

Last season Whistler residents worked to recover laptops that were stolen from luge athletes staying in Whistler, and employees of Haywood Securities wrote cheques to the athletes to make up for the loss.

Walter Corey, the high performance director for the Canadian Luge Association, also spoke and pledged to use home advantage to get his athletes ready for 2010.

“It’s access to this facility and an increased volume of runs which will give us an edge going into the 2010 Games,” he said. “The team you see is stronger, leaner and more fit than ever before. With the help of our partners… our Canadian luge athletes are committed to taking the next step and winning medals.”

The Whistler Sliding Centre will be open for teams and training through the entire season, including provincial luge, bobsleigh and skeleton programs.

Several luge prospects got their first chance to slide on ice last weekend. Additional recruitment camps are on Sunday, Nov. 23 from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Jan. 18 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Feb. 28 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The cost is $30 to take part in the camps, and all participants will get a chance to ride a luge from lower down the course. Online registration is required at www.luge.ca.

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