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He stays at someone's home in Canmore, Alta., so he can train in the mountains. When he's in Calgary, he stays at a different house and the people who live there often cook for him or give him their frequent-flier miles so he can travel overseas.

In Europe last season, he couldn't afford a rental car so the Germans and Austrians took turns giving him rides. The Slovenians waxed his skis because they had technicians; he didn't. The Austrians are also trying to find him a good pair of skis to use when he flies off the Whistler Olympic jump for Canada in February.

"I went on Facebook and asked, 'Has anyone got a pair of 260 jump skis?' " Jason Myslicki said. "I have to pay to get them shipped over ... I have favours coming in from everywhere, massive favours."

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Meet the homeless Olympian, or the closest thing to one. He cross-country skis, he ski jumps; he's a nordic-combined athlete in a country that cares nary a twitter about the sport, which is why Myslicki has relied on well-wishers and favours to keep his quest alive. Such as the friend who let him stay in his basement while Myslicki was training in Whistler. Or the financial assistance he's received from the Canada Athletes Now Fund, from the Thunder Bay Airport Authority and from Canada Brokerline Insurance, the nordic team's national sponsor.

All totalled, it's hardly an avalanche of money. Nordic combined receives no financing from the federal government and not a penny from Own The Podium. Its operating budget of $150,000 a year looks like pocket lint compared to Cross-Country Canada's $4-million. To get by on the most meagre terms, the 31-year-old Myslicki has had to call in favours so he can compete for his country whether Canadians care or even notice.

"I pay $4,000 a year to be on the team and I do it because it's a choice," said Myslicki, who grew up loving the sport in Thunder Bay, where his mother, Margaret, lives. "People say, 'What sacrifices you're making.' I don't see them as sacrifices. It's something I want to do."

Myslicki wanted so badly to compete at the 2010 Olympics he gave up a paying job as coach of an Alberta ski jumping and nordic-combined team last November, came out of retirement and went back to being a guy trying to take on the world with a full heart and an empty wallet. It wasn't long before the struggles reappeared. His national team coach (Ilkka Jylhankangas of Finland) quit and a new one was only recently hired (Scott Johnstone, who once competed in nordic combined but never at an Olympics.)

"[Jylhankangas]got frustrated here and he had a job offer so he went back [to Finland] He's available to help whoever comes to Finland and trains there," said Myslicki, who has had to plot his own training and competitive schedule. "It's strange bringing in a new national team coach just before the Olympics. It kind of says something."

Canada's nordic combined Olympic history is awfully bleak. The Servolds, Clarence and Irvin, both competed in the 1956 and 1960 Winter Games. Irvin's son Jon skied and jumped in 1988. It was until the 2006 that Canada returned to the Olympic nordic-combined scene. Myslicki, coming off a pair of surgeries, finished 41st. Teammate Max Thompson was 44th. Myslicki was so disappointed with his showing he retired soon after and took up long-track speed skating.

Being part of a real team appealed to Myslicki. He liked having training partners, regular coaching, a therapist, and he did well enough to cover 500 metres in 37.2 seconds. But to maintain his athletic ambitions, Myslicki had to take a fulltime job working in corporate sales for Rogers. ("Calgary's an expensive city to live in and I have no family here," he explained.)

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It was all too much.

And then he got a call to coach the Altius Nordic Ski Club. Myslicki admitted he was leery working with teenaged boys in a sports system that had demanded his best without providing much assistance. They didn't know what they were up against; Myslicki did. And yet their passion won him over. When the Olympic ski jumps opened in Whistler, it was the siren's call he could not ignore. So last November he strapped on the boards and took a leap of faith.

"He's pretty ambitious and determined ... kind of a dream chaser," Thompson said of Myslicki.

Thompson has weathered his share of woes, too. He said he used to hustle free rides to events; even lived with a club team in Germany while backed by a Polish sponsor. While being a dreamer seems to come with the sport, Thompson believes Myslicki has returned not only with a purpose but with enough skills to surprise.

"Jason, in my opinion, is going to do better in Whistler than anyone expects. Last year he had a personal best on the World Cup [a 23rd in France]" Thompson said. "Then he had a great summer of training in Finland. [Canada's nordic-combined program paid for the lodging; Myslicki had to pay for the flight.]His preparation, even though it's been difficult, he's created it himself."

Myslicki will outline the depths of his dilemma but doesn't belabour it. What he's blessed with is a unique support group that allows him to train and concentrate on Vancouver. The house in Canmore and the one in Calgary where he stays free belong to the parents of the boys he coached. Charl Pretorius's son Chanon now trains with Myslicki and has travelled overseas with him. It was Charl Pretorius who paid for his son to train in Finland and also paid for Myslicki's flights. "Very few people realize that unless these guys have sponsorships they're in dire straights. It's not a glamorous world," said Pretorius, a dental specialist by trade. "We are very proud of Jason. We think he's a super guy. My help is a drop in the bucket."

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Myslicki understands his chances of winning a medal against the best in the world are as long as a ski jumper's landing. Still, he persists because it's his choice as well as a chance to repay all those who have enabled him to chase the dream. "We might be the only sport where nobody has any expectations for us," Myslicki said. "I'm doing this for me. I'm doing this for my friends and the people who have helped me."

Not much escapes Wolfgang Staudinger. But on this frosty, unseasonably cold morning ("minus-two is cold for Europe," he says), the coach of Canada's up-and-coming luge team is stuck for the name of a song that he says sums up the repetitious nature of training.

"The song is about Joe and he works in a button factory. It's a kid's song, but what it says is that repetition creates instinct," Staudinger, a native of the Bavaria's Berchtesgaden and a former Olympic medalist and German coach, said. "I wish I knew the name of it. Sorry."

It is Thursday morning before a weekend of World Cup races here just across the German border with the Czech Republic. Dresden is 50 kilometres to the north. Prague beckons 110 kilometres to the south. And Staudinger is standing before corner 11 of this 1,413-kilometre track, once again wrapped up in the eternal search for a few hundredths of a second.

Canadian assistant coaches Stefan Skel and Robert Fegg - both, like Staudinger, products of the German national program - are stationed at curve 9 and curve 4. British coach Tommy Zeitz is at the transition area between turns 14 and 15, because the Canadians and British have a formal partnership. Zeitz, too, is German and when Staudinger is asked how many German coaches there are around the world, he laughs and says: "Many. We're like Austrian ski coaches."

Each operates a hand-held two-way radio receiver and transmitter, and their locations aren't accidental.

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"This turn sets you up," Staudinger said. "After turn 10 into 11 it becomes extremely flat here in Altenberg and if you don't bring the velocity and momentum with you in a straight shot - like an arrow shot - then if you have a disadvantage of a hundredth of a second it will probably multiplies to 5 one-hundredths at the finish."

The Canadian staff is at turns 4 and 9 and Zeitz mans the transition between 14 and 15. "Key holes," Staudinger calls them. "Sections of the track where most of the problems occur; sections that set you up where if you don't nail them 100 per cent, your time is simply slower."

The Canadians do not have video capabilities here - in Whistler, they'll have state of the art stuff - but Staudinger isn't worried. "I can live a week without video," he said. "By the time it takes you to set it up, you're on to your next run, anyhow. And after three runs, it's too late. The runs are gone."

If something egregious is noticed, it is not uncommon for Staudinger to pull out a sled at the team hotel, get his athlete to lie on it, and then stand behind them and grab their hands and show them the proper pressure point.

It's good that it's a bit cool, as pop music echoes off the hills from the track's public address system when the track announcer isn't telling each competitor their intermediate times in a variety of languages, personalizing some of the announcements.

"Nothing like a good Saxon accent," Staudinger said, laughing.

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A skier would understand why cold is better, the Canadian coach said: Driving conditions are tougher, and "like a skier waxing his skis, if he knows the hardest conditions, adjusting to the softest conditions is not so difficult."

One by one the coaches impart their observations to each athlete at the end of their run. The radio crackles and Ian Cockerline of Calgary is told by Staudinger: "You brushed against the wall but kept it to the curve. It was the 100-per-cent right correction. Do not change anything because on this one you have hardly any influence. You could squeeze it out a bit harder but I wouldn't change anything. Go the same way and with next run, with a little bit of luck you might be two centimetres later and everything will be good."

Later, he tells the doubles team of Calgary's Justin Snith and Tristan Walker: "Loop in kreisel [the German word for 'turn' refers specifically to any turn on a sliding track that moves a sled between 270-360 degrees around the circumference of a circle]still in place. Try to correct the first pressure point. Undercut it a little more. That should take care of the problem ... but on the exit you got the height in the right place."

Height? Staudinger points to a red flag hanging down in one of the corners. The goal is to have the sled some place in the middle of the wall when you pass under the flag. "All you see when you're lying on a sled is a white wall," Staudinger, who is married to former Canadian luger Marie-Claude Doyon, said.

"The red flag tells you the actual pressure and steering point, providing you have a straight line through the kriesel," Staudinger continued. "So, the red flag is where you actually have to steer the sled out for a straight push into 11."

Staudinger may not remember the details of "the button song" (it's Hello, My Name is Joe, by Peter and Ellen Allard) but he knows what to suggest to medal-hungry Canadians trying to wrap their head around one of the most Euro-centric sports at the Vancouver Olympics, dominated by the Germans and a 36-year-old Italian police officer named Armin Zoggeler, who is bidding for a medal in his fifth consecutive Olympics?

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How about: Go stick your hand out the car window when you're going 100 kilometres an hour. Now imagine trying to prevent your entire body from vibrating while you're lying on your back on a sled. Good luck with that.

"You have to keep an aerodynamic shape in winds up to 130 kilometres a hour and one part of this track, you're pulling three or four Gs and before you know it, your neck is gone," Staudinger said. "The better your body tension the better the speed."

The communication on this day is hardly a one-way street and two of the Canadian sliders with impressive early season results, Alex Gough, 22, and Sam Edney, 26, are particularly candid yet analytical. That's good. Staudinger likes his athletes to question him and make suggestions.

"Imagine a Formula 1 driver," Staudinger said. "He's finished doing his laps in Montreal and he comes back to the pits and doesn't give the proper feedback on changes to the car. What happens? Nothing happens.

"These two give me proper feedback, we respond properly and the action takes place - bang-boom! There's no 'Well, coach, my thing doesn't work.' "

So what does Canada's luge future - immediate and long-term - look like from Turn 11? The goal is to hope the Germans cough up one or two medal spots, and be there with the Austrians and Latvians if that happens.

"We increased volumes and physical standards and now we are right there in comparison to the Germans - which I know because I coached those guys," Staudinger said.

"We are right in the same league in the theoretical numbers. Now it's just a question of recalling the performance and putting it into action. But it won't happen bang-bang-boom. It doesn't happen like this."



HOME TOWN Thunder Bay, Ont.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS Finished 23rd at a World Cup in Chaux-Neuve, France on Feb. 1, 2009; finished 33rd in the individual sprint at the world championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy on Feb. 28, 2003; finished 41st in both events at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics

QUOTE "I can get frustrated. I find it really difficult to be training around other athletes who do have a lot of things. I just wish they knew how nice they have it."

Allan Maki

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