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U.S. female bobsledders keeping a simple gameplan

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DETROIT - In a sport measured to the hundredth of a second, it would be perfectly natural for a bobsledder to embrace the analytical aspects of a race.

But pilot Jean Prahm of Waterford, Mich., and her brakeman, 2002 Olympic gold medalist Vonetta Flowers of Birmingham, Ala., have tried to keep it simple on the women's bobsled World Cup circuit this season.

When the duo tied for first three weeks ago at Lake Placid, N.Y., with Sandra Kiriasis and Anja Schneiderheinze of Germany, Prahm explained their performance this way: "All I can say is that we fought hard the whole way; there's so many things that go into making up two-hundredths of a second."

Each team completed the day's two runs in 1:56.06.

Prahm - formerly known as Jean Racine - is in her 10th and final season in the sport, and she said she has embraced a no-pressure approach to competition. Her relaxed demeanor is working: She's ranked third in points on the World Cup circuit behind Kiriasis and Shauna Rohbock of the United States.

World Cup points earned in five races will determine who goes to Turin, Italy, for the Feb. 10-26 Olympics. Prahm and Flowers are one of three bobsled teams fighting for two Olympic team spots. Driver Jill Bakken, whom Flowers pushed for at the 2002 Olympics, is ranked fifth in the World Cup standings.

"If you look at my times and my starts, I've continued to improve," said Prahm, who at 5-feet-4 and 132 pounds is among the smallest bobsled pilots on the circuit. "My size has become a bigger issue, just because we're pushing more weight than the rest of the world. But we're working with it, not against it."

BIG SKI WEEKEND: With the Turin Games right around the corner, the U.S. men's ski team showed promise after four days of World Cup racing in Beaver Creek, Colo.

Ted Ligety finished third in Sunday's slalom, and Bode Miller - the reigning World Cup champion - and Daron Rahlves finished 1-2 in the giant slalom Saturday. Rahlves edged Miller to win the downhill last Friday.

At Lake Louise, Alberta, Lindsey Kildow won a women's World Cup downhill, and Todd Lodwick reached his first Nordic combined podium of the season Sunday when he placed second in a sprint behind World Cup leader Hannu Manninen of Finland.


(c) 2005, Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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