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Myler hopes to slide to 1st U.S. women's luge medal


ALBERTVILLE, France -- For a month, now, Cammy Myler has heard the preposterous predictions.

She looks down a refrigerated luge run and concentrates on one goal -- finishing a race. Yet everyone around her says she can do more, that she can become the first American to win a sliding medal at the Winter Olympics.

"Any pressure I have, will come from myself," she says quietly, yet adamantly. "I can't let anyone else affect what I have to do."

Today, though, Myler will be the focus of an international sledding extravaganza. The women will be taking over the icy, serpentine track at La Plagne, preparing to slide for medals in a two-day, four-run competition that will determine the world's best luger.

As the World Cup leader, Myler, a 23-year-old who lives in Lake Placid, N.Y., and attends Dartmouth College, is expected to win a medal. But she has spent this week watching another favorite slide out of contention. America's Duncan Kennedy also was supposed to make history here and gain a medal, but he finished 10th in the men's competition.

"Despite everything that has happened, people do respect our team," Myler said. "Years ago, we used to show up around the circuit with rusty sleds. But not anymore."

NTC The U.S. women's luge team is perhaps the most appealing in the Olympics. There is Bonny Warner, the effervescent team leader who started in the sport more than a decade ago after winning an essay contest: "Why I want to attend the 1980 Winter Olympics." Since then, she has appeared in two Olympics, worked as a television sportscaster and earned a pilot's license.

There is Erica Terwilligar, another three-time Olympian who left the sport after the 1988 Games, but returned two years later because she "missed the sliding and felt unfulfilled."

But the new star is Myler. At 5 feet 8, 145 pounds, she is considered light by luging standards. But she makes up for the deficiency with superb technique and physical skill.

"Cammy is a tremendous natural athlete," Warner said. "She has great strength. She doesn't have a klutzy bone in her body."

Myler began in the high-speed sport as an 11-year-old, moving easily from a ski slope to a luge track. Serious and introspective, she relishes comprehending the sport's finer points of aerodynamics.

"It's not something for daredevils," she said. "I hear people say all the time, 'You don't do much but lie on a sled and drag down the course.' And then, of course, I hear from people, 'The other women are so huge and fat, and you're so small, how do you do well?' "

Myler has done just fine, thank you. She became the first American to win a World Cup medal in 1986. At the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, she finished ninth.

Now, a top 10 finish would be unsatisfying. Myler may not publicly express her goals, but those around her say she is aiming for a medal.

"I'm known for my perseverance," she said. "It takes a lot of years of experience to learn how to ride a sled."

Today and tomorrow, she'll find out if she has learned enough to win a gold.

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