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When sucking it up ... drains the Olympic spirit

When this Olympics is over. When the cauldron goes dark and the world goes home. When the Canadians, drunk on their poor sportsmanship in the quest for gold, sober up.

When all this comes to pass, the host nation should do the honorable thing and blow up a part of its now infamous sliding track and start again.

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The track, billed the fastest in the world, is a death trap at worst and an accident waiting to happen under the very best of circumstances.

In short, it has robbed three sports -- luge, bobsled and skeleton -- of their competitive joy.

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All these athletes want to do is get to the bottom upright.

That's not sport.

The track has cranked up the macho level to where sane people won't say out loud the fears they are feeling. They pretend to the world that all is well. They use words like, "challenge" and

"fast" as code for what it's really like to try to negotiate three twitchy curves at more than 85 mph on a sheet of ice.

The Canadians, who have had a ton of runs on their home track while barring others from the same practice time, practically mock their guests and dismiss those who are struggled as "exotics."

Well, Wednesday night, Cathleen Martini crashed. The bobsled driver from Germany won five of eight World Cup races this year. Let the record show that off their home track, the Canadian women won zero.

Martini's mishap was NASCAR quality. The violence of the collision with an ice wall broke off a chunk of the sled and ejected her brakeman into the track.

The crash was so nasty that defending Olympic champion Sandra Kiriasis burst into tears.

Kiriasis is, by the way, German -- the dominant force in all sliding sports.

Martini knows about danger. Her long-time brakeman was killed in a 2004 training run while trying to learn how to pilot a sled just weeks after the two women placed fourth in the world championships.

Shuana Rohbock, the 2006 silver medalist, called the track "stupid fast."

Indeed.

Let's be clear here. There's a difference between a fast track and a technical track. A technical track makes you concentrate from first push until the brakeman pulls the handle at the end. It challenges a pilot's skills. A fast track is, well, just an iced-up cement chute that spits you out at the other end. It challenges a team's ability to hold on.

This stupid-fast track has made people stupid, too, in one case turning a coach against his athlete.

In withdrawing from the four-man competition that begins Friday, Dutch pilot Edwin van Calker said a "lack of confidence" in his ability to drive the course led to the decision.

Last year, van Calker had an accident that put two teammates -- one of them his brother -- in the hospital.

The Dutch withdrawal was one of three.

But what did van Calker's coach do? Ripped his guy to the press.

"I've never seen someone get to a major event and not compete because he's scared. You keep your inner fears to yourself and you do it," said Tom de LaHunty.

The coach said van Calker would regret the decision "for the rest of his life" and then outlined what would await van Calker when he returned home:

"They will be in for a lot of ridicule ... it's already started. 'Why did the chicken cross the bobsleigh track?' It's the end of [his] career."

Isn't that special and filled with Olympic spirit?

When this is all over Saturday and the winners crowned, the Canadians need to do the right thing and rebuild the dangerous section. If they won't do it, the international federations of the three sliding sports should make them do it and withhold any future World Cup events until they do.

Other tracks have been altered to make them better or safer.

Fans should be cheering because athletes have done a good job not because they've managed to avoid an ambulance ride.

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