Tony Benshoof's back ailing again
Olympic luge slider Tony Benshoof's back is aching again, just as the international racing season is set to begin. Benshoof, who was fourth in the 2006 Turin Games, wrote on his Twitter feed that he will have his back examined Friday - just one day before he is supposed to slide in luge's first men's World Cup event of the Olympic season in Calgary, Alberta. Nonetheless, he plans to race Saturday as scheduled. "This hasn't changed his plans at all," USA Luge spokesman Gordy Sheer said Thursday night after conferring with Benshoof. "He's viewing it as a bump in the road. He's optimistic." Benshoof has had back problems for years, and underwent surgery last Dec. 26 with hopes of alleviating the pain. "This pain is different," Sheer said. "Overall, he doesn't think it's like last year." Benshoof competed in a Nations Cup race Thursday in Calgary, placing third. "Good news: 3rd in Nations cup tonight. Bad news: Back is injured," Benshoof wrote. Sheer said Benshoof believes the back pain stems from a combination of factors. Several sliders, Benshoof included, said the outrun (the stretch where racers slow down after crossing the finish line) was very bumpy on the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, where an international training period just concluded, and that can lead to some jarring hits. Secondly, Benshoof thinks he might have slightly overdone it during a recent weightlifting session, and third, the flight alone from Vancouver to Calgary could have set his back off a bit, as well. "The way Tony described it to me was, they were going to look at the MRI as a map for future injections into his back to alleviate pain," Sheer said. "He said it's an awkward, sharp pain. He's feeling it on specific movements." On Wednesday night, during a USA Luge conference call to promote the opening World Cup and the start of the season, Benshoof said the ongoing back issues have been manageable. "The pain level is low, but sometimes, I'll tweak it," Benshoof said on that call. "I think anyone who's had a back surgery has had the same problem, so it's not unusual." During that call, Benshoof also said he intends to take the same plan into this Olympic season as he did before the 2006 Turin Games. "I'm focusing on each individual race, more like a ladder," Benshoof said. "Of course, the long-term goal is the Games, but the strategy I took in 2006 was race-by-race strategy, and that worked pretty well for me. So that's kind of how I'm taking it now, kind of one foot in front of the other." Benshoof missed the bronze medal in Turin by 0.153 seconds over the four-run competition.