February 16, 2006

Scary Cesana track has its fans

By Patrick Vignal

CESANA, Italy (Reuters) - The Cesana track which has
claimed many victims since the start of the Turin Games has its
fans, starting with Canada's Chris Moffat who loves it
precisely because it is so challenging.

"You'd be a looney if you weren't scared," said Moffat, who
came ninth in Wednesday's luge doubles competition with his
brother, Mike.

"We are two inches above the ice going 130 km/h in our
underwear. It's not exactly the safest sport. Injuries happen
and it's part of the game.

"This is the fastest technical track in the world right
now," he added. "It's technical because you have to drive and
when you drive you have to be precise in what you do and not
make mistakes."

Ten competitors crashed in training or competition during
the luge events, which ended on Wednesday, and more accidents
are likely during the skeleton contests on the same track on
Thursday and Friday.

Several competitors blamed the high number of crashes on
the fact they had not been allowed enough training runs to get
familiar with the treacherous icy serpentine.

"Six training runs are not enough to learn the track," said
German Andre Florschuetz, who won doubles silver with Torsten
Wustlich. "You need to have every single detail of the course
in your head before hurtling down."


Most of those who crashed escaped with bruises but 'Grandma
Luge' was not that lucky. The oldest woman at the Games, Anne
Abernathy, 52, of the U.S. Virgin Islands missed her sixth
Olympics after fracturing her right wrist in training.

"I love this track but something has to be done, otherwise
someone is going to get seriously hurt," she said.

When the Cesana facility was first tested a year ago, a
World Cup event scheduled on it was canceled after four sliders
crashed in training and ended up in hospital. The course was
modified after that but remains tricky.

Games organizers and luge officials share Moffat's view
that the track is challenging but not particularly risky.

Moffat said he was looking forward to a similar track for
the next Winter Games in 2010 in Vancouver.

"I really hope that Whistler (the track which will host the
bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events) becomes hard," he said.

"If we are going to raise the bar with tracks like this, we
need to move away from the cruiser tracks and move toward
harder tracks."