By Martyn Herman
WHISTLER (Reuters) - Rattling round the vertical wall of ice known as Thunderbird corner at 90mph in something resembling a giant cigar tube on runners is just a blast for American bobsleigh pilot John Napier.
As the controversial Whistler track continued to take its toll on Friday with another athlete ending up in hospital after a high-speed spill, Napier's attitude after final training for the two-man bobsleigh was "bring it on!"
"It's fast, it's dangerous and challenging we all know that, that's why most of us do it and why I do it," the 23-year-old Napier, a devout Christian, told reporters just 100 meters from where Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed exactly a week earlier.
"I live for that little fear and that rush. I just pray to God for the skills I need."
The fearsome, 16-corner Whistler track, which drops the height of a towerblock during its winding 1,400 meter path through the wooded slopes of Blackcomb Mountain, is regarded as the toughest in the world with some athletes believing designers went a little too far in their search for speed.
Napier, who belongs to the Vermont National Guard and wants to be deployed to Afghanistan, seems to thrive on danger.
"The fatality?" he said after being asked his opinion on the track. "We all know it's dangerous. The first option is you live in fear of that, or you are going to accept it and still go after it or you can quit, which is your third option.
"It's a dangerous sport. You're going 90 plus miles an hour. You're either here and you're loving it or you shouldn't be here at all in my opinion.
"I grew up on Lake Placid which is a tough track, I like them tough, I like the struggle. Whistler though is probably on my limits, I don't know how much harder I can drive.
"We'll see, if they build a tougher one, I'll be there and I'll be trying."
Napier, who took up the sport aged eight, is hugely respectful of the "bobsleigh family" and said he would happily share his experience with athletes from weaker countries.
Napier is part of a U.S. bobsleigh squad chasing a first gold medal in the sport for 62 years and is an outside shot but for world champion Steve Holcomb, who will pilot the Night Train in the four-man competition, there is huge expectation that he can end the domination Germany's Andre Lange.
"It weighs on us a little bit but it's been 62 years so if we go another four, big deal, but if we do manage it will be a huge accomplishment so there is pressure there," he said.
"I like this track. If it's too easy it gets kind of boring but this one keeps you on your toes all the time."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)