Prince Albert Heading To Albertville
MONTE CARLO, Monaco (AP) _ It took a while for the word ″bobsled″ to roll off the tongues of the Monegasque people as easily as Rolls Royce, dollar or casino. This sport His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco was getting involved in was strange, indeed.
″There was no tradition in Monaco for bobsled,″ Albert said. ″At the beginning the people couldn’t pronounce the word when I first started practicing it. ″
Seven years later, the 33-year-old Prince Albert is heading to his second Olympic Games as an athlete. In the tiny principality bobsled has become notorious because of Albert’s participation in the event.
Albert iss his hopes focused on this year’s Games at Albertville, France.
″We only have a few weeks left so we have to train as hard as possible,″ said Albert back from a 10-day training session in La Plagne on the Olympic track.
″At the beginning of February we will take part in the Nation Cups followed by the European Championship 10 days after. Then it will be the beginning of the Games already.″
A few days before the opening of the games, Albert has a meeting with the International Olympic Committee. He is not only one of the youngest members, but the only one to compete currently.
″The most difficult for me is to keep up with my training as well as all the committee meetings I have outside of bobsled,″ he said.
When not involved in one way or the other with the Olympic Games, Albert works in the pink palace and helps his father, Prince Rainier, run the principality to be prepared for the day he takes over.
″If I had been given the choice - bobsled or maybe another sport could have become a passion. But I have other duties and Monaco requires my presence and lots of work,″ Albert said.
The heir of Monaco has a black belt in judo. His is also a fan of swimming.
″Maybe I could have carried on swimming to a competitive level but my coach changed and it wasn’t the same,″ he said.
However the speed and the thrill of rushing down a bobsled track the first time he tried in Saint Moritz, Switzerland, brought him to the his first Olympic Games in 1988.
″The first time I tried I never imagined I was going to get so involved in bobsled,″ he said. ″But then I went back to Monaco and created the Monegasque Bobsled Federation and a team for Calgary.″
In the 1988 Olympic Games of Calgary Albert and his teammate Gilbert Bessi placed 25th out of 38 in the two-man event.
The results list the team as simply ″Grimaldi, A., Bessi, G., Mon-I″
″This year we’re not expecting to do better. The level is very high and the Swiss, Italians or Russians all have a big tradition in that sport, so if we place among the top 25 it wouldn’t be too bad,″ said Albert.
″I would really need a miracle to achieve a medal in the Games.″ Albert said. ″I mean we don’t have many exceptional athletes in Monaco and in a country with 5,000 Monegasques and more than half of them are women.
″It’s really not that easy to pick up a real Monegasque physically fit for bobsled and who likes the cold and the snow.″
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