Ruben Gonzalez, the best worst luger in the world
His name is Ruben Gonzalez.
His country: Argentina
His resume: Four-time Olympic luger
His website: thelugeman.com
His chances: Nada. Zippo. Zero. Zilch.
Don't take my word for it or don't think I'm being cruel.
Here's Gonzalez, 47, in his own words after his first of four runs. "Feels like I've got a pretty good lock on last place. Someone would really have to try hard to take that away from me."
Of the 38 athletes competing here at the Whistler Sliding Centre, Gonzalez is back of the pack in a sport where less than a dozen sliders have a chance at the podium in any year.
This year it's the Olympics, his last. You see, Gonzalez knew Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian slider who died Friday in a training accident. He actually learned from him less than two years ago at the track in Latvia.
"It was just the two of us training," Gonzalez recalled. "It's a tough track there. Before I even asked for help, Nodar came to me on his own and helped me through."
That's often the way it is for the lower-tier sliders who lack the financial backing of big federations and sponsors.
Before Friday, Gonzalez hadn't even thought of retiring after the Winter Games.
"A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have said that. I wanted to keep going," he said. But the fatal accident gave Gonzalez the perspective that "there are other things to do in life."
During Friday night's opening ceremony, Gonzalez said he realized that "this wasn't for me anymore. I didn't know how to celebrate, so at one point, when normally I would be hanging on every moment, I went outside and got a hot dog."
Even though luge officials have taken steps to lower speeds on the Whistler track, Gonzalez and others have looked shaky, even downright scary, during the 48 seconds it takes to get down the track.
Some would say these competitors from places such as India and Taipei and Argentina have no business in a place like this. Gonzalez disagrees.
"People think that sliders are daredevils and risk takers. People shouldn't think of us this way," he says. "We are analysts. We are like engineers and test pilots.
"The daredevils are gone in their first season."
-- Candus Thomson in Vancouver
Photo: Ruben Gonzalez. Credit: Cliver Mason, Getty Images.