Reuters - Thu, 18 Feb 03:08:00 2010
Canadian sliders had gold glinting in their eyes under dazzling blue skies at the Whistler track after ripping it up in skeleton training.
Mellisa Hollingsworth, on board the sledge she calls White Lightning, bolted down the snaking 1400 metres track at 87mph to top the women's time charts while Jon Montgomery set the men's pace in both the fifth and sixth training runs.
"Jon is the man," fellow Canadian Michael Douglas, who was second and third fastest in his two runs, said.
"He played down last year's World Cup victory here but he is the man. We are great friends and I'm cheering for him almost as much as I'm cheering for me."
Hollingsworth, a bronze medallist in Turin but favourite after winning this year's World Cup series, has been first in five of the six training runs and looked unstoppable as she whistled through the Thunderbird curve.
"I'm very excited to get going for sure, it's been a great week so far," Hollingsworth, who has become one of the faces of the Games for the host nation, said after her final run before the serious business starts on Thursday.
"It's nice that we had our nationals here so that we can have a measure of whether we're on track or not and so far it's looking good."
Britain's Shelley Rudman, silver medallist in Turin and one of Hollingsworth's main rivals for gold, was getting to grips with Whistler by her sixth training run when she was fourth quickest. Her team-mate Amy Williams was second quickest.
Williams, the 2009 World Championship silver medallist, who won silver at last year's World Cup race on the Vancouver 2010 track, said: Today went well, I stuck to my plan. I had a few corners that I needed to work out.
I like this track and I haven't let the speed of the track throw me, she added. I managed to enjoy it, and whenever I relax, enjoy it and have fun, it seems to work out. If I can enjoy the track I think the results will follow."
Rudman finished 13th in the first training heat of the day but improved in the next.
"I need 10 more runs and I'll be spot on," Rudman said. "When you get it right, you fly!"
Martins Dukurs, who carries Latvia's hopes of a first Winter Games gold medal after winning the World Cup, said the Canadians would be hard to stop on home ice.
"He's smashing it down, he's really tough," Dukurs said of Montgomery. "This is the toughest track in the world. I've had 40 runs here but I'd like to slide 150 more."
Asked how he would prepare for his big day on Thursday, he said: "I will polish my runners, watch the hockey and go to sleep, No beer."
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