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March 18, 2016

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Lueders takes a vow

Volatile bobsledder promises to be a good boy as the Olympics approach

By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

 Bobsledders are generally not the type of guys you want to invite over for tea.

 They generally are big, loud, boisterous fellas who live hard and compete like maniacs. There is nothing delicate about these boys and when there is a problem they generally take action, either verbally or otherwise.

 Like the time at a World Cup race in La Plagne, France, in 1997. Just prior to a run with brakeman Ricardo Greenidge, Canada's Pierre Lueders motioned to a nearby camerman to get out of the way. When the cameraman failed to budge, Lueders walked over and nailed him with a forearm smash.

 The defending Olympic gold medallist in the two-man sled (with the now retired Dave MacEachern) speaks out when he is peeved, and that often happens before an Olympics, over the makeup of the sled crews.

 But this year Lueders has vowed to be a good boy and keep his mouth shut -- no matter what the Bobsleigh Canada braintrust decides to do for the Salt Lake Games.

 "I like to meddle in things (but) now I realize it's in the best interest to stay out (of it)," Lueders said yesterday from his hotel room in La Plagne, site of this weekend's World Cup. "If the team makes a decision that's best for the entire group, sometimes you don't slide with the people you like, but you have to be patient."

 Lueders, of course, is speaking for himself.

 But when BC makes the final crew decisions for Salt Lake, there's bound to be some angry young men in the program.

 Maybe even Lueders.

 Probably the toughest decision BC faces is where to put rookie brakeman Giulio Zardo.

 Zardo, 21, is considered a phenom on the circuit. In his first season he has helped his regular pilot, Yannik Morin, to numerous top-10 finishes. Last weekend in Cortina he and Lueders clicked for the gold medal. It was the first time they had competed in a World Cup together.

 Lueders won't come right out and say it, but clearly he would love the chance to race the two-man in Salt Lake with Montreal native Zardo.

 The problem is, Morin is going to want to race with Zardo. After all, he's the guy who got Zardo in bobsleigh. And many of the other brakemen want to race with Lueders, one of the current greats in the sport. It's going to be an interesting situation when the crews are announced.

 The day after Lueders and Zardo won in Cortina, Italy, the pair, along with Pascal Caron and Ken LeBlanc, smacked heavily into a wall. Caron had to return home for treatment and the rest of the crew is banged up. The four-man sled is currently in Dresden, Germany being repaired and BC has rented a sled for this weekend's race from the French.


 Olympic snowboarder Natasza Zurek was born to be a snow and mountain girl.

 A native of Zakopane, Poland, Zurek, 23, moved to Canada with her parents when she was a little girl and the family settled in B.C., where her dad worked as a mountain rescue guide, the same job he had in the old country.

 Kris Zurek was, in fact, a member of several Polish teams that scaled some of the highest mountains in the world, including Everest, where he was struck hard by altitude sickness.

 Natasza, who has won three major international events and is a medal favourite in the halfpipe in snowboarding, does some rock climbing with her dad but never ventured into mountain climbing.

 "I like what I do because at the end of the day you can just go to your hotel and listen to music and watch MuchMusic (on TV)," the soft-spoken snowboarder said.


  For those of you who thought former International Olympic Committee grand poobah Juan Antonio Samaranch was finally gone from the IOC scene when he stepped down as president last summer, think again. The man in charge when IOC members were scoring expensive gifts and university scholarships for their families from various bid groups, still is in the fold. The IOC announced its list of commissions this week and -- surprise, surprise -- ol' Juan was chosen to chair the Pierre De Coubertin commission, as well as the all-important Olympic Philately, Numismatic and Memorabilia commission. I think that has something to do with selling key chains ... Dick Pound lost in his bid to replace Samaranch but the Montreal lawyer is a member of the Juridical commission and chairs the Olympic Games study commission, which is an important gig considering the IOC wants to severely downsize future Games ... Toronto sailor and former bid guru Paul Henderson is a member of the Sport and Environment commission along with Edmonton's Robert Steadward. Former Canadian sprint star Charmaine Crooks sits on two commissions -- Culture and Olympic Education and the Athletes commission.


 How come nobody questions Steve Yzerman's place on the Canadian Olympic team? I know technically he is allowed to play, but isn't he the same guy who took out American citizenship last year? Everybody gets on Lennox Lewis' case for fighting as a Brit. Nobody questions Yzerman's patriotism ... American speedskater Chris Witty, a medallist at the 1998 Nagano Games, has come down with mononucleosis, so I guess she can, ahem, kiss her medal chances goodbye in Salt Lake.

2002 Games Columnists