Reuters - Wed, 10 Feb 16:38:00 2010
Canada's luge team will have gold medals and dollar signs flashing before their eyes when they push off down Whistler's sliding track on Saturday.
Members of the team, once so hard-up that they competed with "for sale" signs emblazoned across their crash helmets, have been promised one million Canadian dollars (£600,000) by Alberta-based Fast Track Group should they win a gold medal.
The jackpot, which would be shared between the athlete and the national federation, may be a long-shot as Canada is seeking its first Olympic medal of any colour in the sport, but it added some sparkle to the eyes of the 10-strong team as they prepared for action.
"It's huge for us to be offered that kind of thing," said women's singles hope Alex Gough, a genuine medal prospect after a fourth place in last year's world championships.
"It's a bonus, if it happens it would be awesome but when you are racing there's only one thing on your mind and that's having the best four runs of my life, whether there's a million dollars waiting at the end of it or not."
Team mate Regan Lauscher said the announcement had been a shock. "It hasn't really processed in my brain yet," she said. "It would be life-changing that's for sure. I would buy back my motorcycle that got stolen!"
Sam Edney, tipped by none other than defending men's champion Armin Zoeggeler as a potential threat, said it showed that Canadian tobogganing was on the up.
"It's an amazing idea. Unbelievably generous. Less than a year ago we had no sponsor, now we have a group of people who believe in us so much that they are prepared to put that sort of money on the line," he said.
"We are not thinking about the million dollars, we come to compete and do our best for the country and if that means a gold medal then what that is and what that's worth is more than what they are offering."
Ian Cockerline, who along with Edney and Jeff Christie are nicknamed the Three Musketeers, was a little more direct. "It's certainly a lot of fun thinking about what I would do with the 500,000 dollars," he said.
A silver or bronze medal would earn 50,000 Canadian dollars while the best performing athletes in the three disciplines will pocket 5,000 dollars.
The men's singles medals will be decided on Sunday with the women's singles concluding on Tuesday and the doubles Wednesday.