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Canadian sliders jockey for position

Practice at Whistler Sliding Centre likely to improve chances of medals in 2010



Canada's best sliders are training and competing against each other at the Whistler Sliding Centre this week.

While teams for the 2010 Games are still being finalized, sliding athletes are jockeying for positions on the World Cup, the Europa Cup and the America's Cup circuits.

Athletes must get a certain number of points to qualify for the Olympic Games and for the various levels of competition.

One of Canada's top pilots, Lyndon Rush, ranked 14th in the two-man sled and 19th in the four-man sled by the international bobsleigh organization, the FIBT, is using the time to get as familiar with the Whistler track as possible.

"When you are getting ready for this track you are always really focused because it can nip you," said the Saskatchewan father of two girls, the first aged three years old and the second four months. "You can crash and make big mistakes on it. The more technical the track is I think the more advantage it is for the home team, and that is a nice advantage for us."

The aptly named Rush, 29, is no stranger to racing and it's that element, along with the science of winning in a bobsled, that has kept him hooked on the sport.

"I really like racing," he said on a break from the track.

"I used to race motorcycles and snowmobiles when I was younger. We would even race lawnmower tractors. It didn't matter what it was we just wanted to race."

Initially he was asked to be the brakeman on a sled - the athlete who pushes off and then eventually pulls the brake.

But a pulled hamstring during try-out camp sent him over to the driver's camp and he has never looked back.

"The more you steer the more you slow the sled down," said Rush.

"You are creating friction when you steer so ideally you do as little as possible to achieve the good line, and there is a tradeoff between achieving the good line and slowing the sled down.

"That is the balance of the science of trying to get down fast - do you do a little bit more here so you can do less there."

Rush is excited about the opportunity to compete at home in 2010, but not for the pageantry associated with the event. For Rush it is all about the speed and the competition.

"I think it will be the biggest race I've done and that's what I'm looking forward to."

It is likely he will pilot the Canada 2 sled with athletes Lascelles Brown, Dan Humphries and Chris LeBihan.