Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

$1-M reward for any Canadian luger to win gold

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WHISTLER, B.C. -- After years of slumming it, Canada's Olympic luge team has a chance to move into sport's high-rent neighbourhood.

An Alberta sponsor has offered a $1-million prize to any Canadian luger who wins a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

That's huge for us to be offered that sort of thing," Calgary's Alex Gough said Tuesday, a few moments after learning about the golden carrot.

Sam Edney said the offer shows the potential of Canada's luge team.

A year ago we had no title sponsor," said the Calgary resident, who is considered a threat in the men's event. Now we've got a group of people that believe in us so much they are willing to put that kind of money on the line."

The cash is being put up by Fast Track Group, a company which bills itself as a financial education specialist.

I guess I'm blessed financially and I wanted to share," company founder Darren Weeks said in a telephone interview from St. Albert, Alta.

The million-dollar prize would be split between the athlete and the Canadian Luge Association. There is only the single million-dollar windfall, so if athletes win more than one gold, they'll have to divide the money among themselves.

The company is also offering $50,000 for each silver and bronze medal. There will be a $5,000 reward for the top Canadian in men's and women's singles and doubles. The athletes can pocket all the cash.

The offer is not only for the Vancouver Games, but stands for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Weeks said since becoming the team sponsor he noticed the disparity in the financial rewards received by some sports. Alpine skiers, figure skaters, snowboarders and speedskaters can earn six-figure salaries in sponsorships.

Luge athletes live on the other side of the sliding track.

'Level the playing field'

I was trying to level the playing field and give them more exposure," said Weeks. "As an entrepreneur you do things on the spur of the moment. I thought, why not?"

Weeks has not taken out an insurance policy in case he needs to shell out the million.

A medal is considered a longshot, however, at least on paper. The team's best hopes are Gough and Edney.

Gough, 22, finished in the top six four times this year on the World Cup and was No. 4 at last year's world championships.

Currently ranked seventh in the world, she was 20th at the 2006 Games in Turin.

Edney, 25, finished a career-best fifth to kick off this season and also posted a seventh-place finish.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 10, 2010 C4

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