Hollingsworth wins Canadian championship

Skeleton slider Mellisa Hollingsworth showed Sunday she is in the groove to take another run at Olympic glory.

CALGARY — Skeleton slider Mellisa Hollingsworth showed Sunday she is in the groove to take another run at Olympic glory.

The slider from Eckville drove a combined 1:55.66 over two races at Canada Olympic Park to win the Canadian Skeleton Championships.

Jon Montgomery of Russell, Man., was the winner on the men’s side, with a combined time of 1:53.45.

“I’m ecstatic right now. This is going to be a very exciting season,” said Hollingsworth, who won an Olympic bronze medal at Turin in 2006.

“What a way to go into the Olympic Games at home.”

Hollingsworth beat second-place finisher Amy Gough of Abbotsford, B.C., by 1.05 seconds.

Michelle Kelly of Fort St. John, B.C., was third, 1.14 seconds off the pace.

The event was the last of three selection races for the World Cup circuit, which begins Nov. 12 in Park City, Utah.

Three racers are picked for each of the Canadian World Cup men’s and women’s teams. The squads will be announced at a news conference in Calgary on Wednesday. While a World Cup berth doesn’t guarantee a slider a spot on the 2010 Olympic team, it gives them a chance to control their own destiny if they drive well.

Gough, 32, was the runner-up in all three selection races and also expects to be named to the squad.

“It’s the best selection races I’ve ever had. My pushes (start times) have really come a long way. It’s a personal best for sure,” Gough said.

The former rugby player had a magical rookie season on the World Cup circuit in 2007, finishing seventh overall. But she then injured her ankle severely and has struggled to return to form, sliding since on the Intercontinental Cup development circuit.

The third spot remains up for grabs between Kelly and Sarah Reid of Calgary, both of whom were on the World Cup team last year.

On the men’s side, Montgomery said he is looking to capitalize on gains made last year when he won gold at the World Cup event in Whistler, B.C., site of the 2010 Olympic sliding events.

“There’s no letting up, especially at this time of the season. You want to find out what you’re capable of,” said Montgomery, 30.

Jeff Pain of Calgary finished in second place, more than eight-tenths of a second behind Montgomery.

Mike Douglas of Toronto was third, nine-tenths of a second behind. All three are expected to be named to the World Cup team Wednesday.

Pain, 38, a silver medal winner at Turin, said he struggled with his times out of the blocks because he was fighting a cold, but is still happy with the result.

“I had to drive really solid both runs and I did. That’s my takeaway this week — my equipment is working well. I’ve just got to get healthy and get back to pushing.”

Douglas said third place was sweet redemption after missing the World Cup team by two-tenths of a second in last year’s final selection race.

The 38-year-old X-ray technician said since then he has worked more on the mental aspects of preparation, reading books and talking to therapists to help keep focus when careening down the icy track at 120 kilometres an hour plus.

“This is where I want to be. It’s where I expect to be,” said Douglas. “There’s been so much stress in these selections. These are the best athletes in the world and you can’t take your foot off the gas.”

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