US luger Tony Benshoof plans to race this weekend

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The cortisone shot Tony Benshoof needed for his back pain was only a temporary fix. "They last up to three months," he said. Fortunately for Benshoof, the luge competition at the Vancouver Olympics is only 2 1/2 months away. Benshoof arrived in Igls, Austria, on Wednesday, saying the latest recurrence of his chronic back pain is under control. Barring something unexpected, he will race in a World Cup competition there Sunday, when his quest for a third trip to the Olympics resumes. "I don't have any pain right now," the 34-year-old U.S. luge veteran said during a conference call. "I'm not going to push it really hard until the race this weekend, but I'm fairly optimistic." Benshoof had surgery 11 months ago for a herniated disk. Tests last week showed the same disk has herniated again, bringing more pain. He was sixth in the World Cup opener last weekend at Calgary, Alberta, then stayed in western Canada an extra two days to take the cortisone shot. The flight to Austria led to soreness and discomfort, Benshoof said, but stretching at the gym afterward seemed to solve the problem. "Some of the back pain I've had, I wouldn't wish it on my enemies," Benshoof said. Benshoof knew the disk had gone bad again when he tried to pick up his sled after a training run in Calgary. The pain brought him to his knees. He was able to compete in both a Nation's Cup and the World Cup stop after the flare-up, but after conferring with doctors, the shot was deemed necessary. "They shoot cortisone on the nerve root," Benshoof said. "It's actually a nerve-blocking procedure where the cortisone is just a real localized anti-inflammatory that kind of calms that nerve root down. It gave me relief." He will be back on the ice for training Thursday, and said he doesn't intend to hold anything back Sunday or at any time this season. "I'm definitely going to go for it," Benshoof said. "I've had some successes here in the past and I know I can be a contender. So I'm going to play it by ear, but yeah, every race is important. From here on out, it's as fast as possible." Benshoof was fourth at the 2006 Turin Games, missing a medal by less than one-fifth of a second. A 21-year member of the USA Luge program and a winner of 37 international medals, the most by any U.S. men's luge slider, Benshoof has hinted that this season could be his last. That's why he's not taking time to rest his back. "It's an Olympic year and it could quite possibly be my last hurrah," Benshoof said. "That in and of itself makes it worth it."

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