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Irish women can make final in whistler

AFTER an eventful build-up to their Winter Olympics, during which their qualification for the bobsleigh event in Vancouver was challenged by Australia and Brazil, Aoife Hoey and Claire Bergin finally saw competitive action in the early hours of this morning in the first two heats at the track in Whistler.

Hoey and Bergin were 20th out of 21 teams after heats one and two, but can still make the final run tomorrow if they maintain that postion, or improve on it, after heat three in the early hours of Thurasday morning.

The Irish pair were in last position after the first run, 1.85 seconds behind the leading Canadian pair of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, who set a track record of 53.19 seconds. Rivals Australians, who were allowed to compete after the recent CAS ruling, were one spot above the Irish after the first heat with a run of 54.85 compared with the Irish women's 55.04.

Hoey and Bergin improved on their second run, finishing in a time of 54.49 for a combined time of 1:49.53, which left them in 20th, 3.33 seconds behind the Canadians, but just two hundredths of a second behind Australia. Humphries and Moyse lowered their second time to 53.01, breaking the track record again for a combined effort of 1:46.20.

Meanwhile, Britain's hopes of winning a two-man bobsleigh medal were looking remote as Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke were 10th at the halfway stage.

The world champions were one place ahead of team-mates Paula Walker and Kelly Thomas, but both were more than a second behind Canada 1 after two of four runs.

Minichiello and Cooke produced their fastest slide of 53.73 seconds on their second run at the Whistler Sliding Centre for a combined time of 1:47.58 and a 0.19-second advantage over Walker and Thomas.

The Canadian leaders are 0.13 seconds ahead of Erin Pac and Elana Meyers, who guided United States 2 into the silver medal position with a second run of 53.05.

Germany 2 duo Cathleen Martini and Romy Logsch slipped to third, 0.02 ahead of Canada 2 and 0.04 in front of Germany 1.