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    Friday, February 13, 1998

    Tough sledding ahead

    By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
      NAGANO -- Four years ago in Lillehammer, it was like Pierre Lueders figured he had to win the practice runs to win an Olympic gold medal.
     He won them. But he finished seventh in the two-man bobsled when the actual for real Olympics began.
     So did he smarten up this time? Or not?
     Since Lillehammer, the Edmonton driver has gone on to win two world championships and four of six World Cup races this year. And when it comes to training runs, he's been exactly the opposite than he was on Olympic bob weekend four years ago.
     Lueders says it's been an interesting time getting ready for the four weekend runs. He's waited for four years to get this do-over. And he wants to get it right this time.
     Practice sessions concluded here yesterday. And Lueders says it's been an interesting week getting ready for his race.
     "All the teams are tired,'' he said.
     "While today was the last day of training, we only had one run offered because of the rain we had here. In the last week we've seen rain, snow, sun, and even thunderstorms and lightning, which was very interesting.''
     Lueders hasn't been winning the training runs this time. But he's putting more into them than he has since he became the No. 1 man in two-man after putting Lillehammer behind him.
     "On average we've been in the top three or four in training. Sometimes around ninth because of our late training draws.
     "All in all, I'd say training has been relatively good. It's certainly been demanding. Myself and the coaches were putting pressure on me to perform better in training.
     "I'm a notorious sandbagger in practice runs, which often leaves me figuring things out on race day. The goal this time was to be at a very high level in training, that way there are not too many things to change on race day.''
     Lueders likes the track. He won the pre-Olympic race here last year. In fact, he put away his world title here last year.
     "The track is very fast. Faster than last year,'' he said.
     And he has a message for everybody back home:
     "Cross your fingers and have fast thoughts.''