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Lake Placid a New Experience for Brazilian Bobsledders

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LAKE PLACID — It's raceday morning in Lake Placid. The Brazilian bobsled team is getting ready to run. It rarely snows in Brazil, so for three team members, this is a brand new experience.

Driver Ricardo Raschini of Brazil II just made his first ride a day earlier. He had never seen a bobled track before.

The more experienced driver of Brazil I, Eric Maleson, is also excited, so much so that he's had the hiccups all week.

What they lack in experience, they more than make up for in enthusiasm. These young men have no fear.

"Eric is our first team driver," explains coach "lightning" Joe Zammikiel. "Eric's been driving for four years. For our second team, this is their first competition, and they're really looking good out there."

Brazil I is off on a practice run. Already there's a problem. The brakeman has fallen off. And just when you think things will go the same way for Brazil II, they get off to a clean start, and sail right on down the bobsled track.

Brazil has had only one winter olympian. They never entered anybody in a team sport. So while the guys might not be very good right now, they certainly are breaking new ground.

They would leave a ton of paint on the walls, and do more frammin' and bammin' than at Talledega. They would compete against former Olympians like the Jamaicans, and the Olympic newcomers from Trinidad and Tobago. And under the watch of their coach,"Lightning Joe" from Yonkers, who's been struck twice by lightning, they would run well.

"People tell me this like one of the toughest tracks," says Brazil I brakeman Alen Capdehourat, "and if you can make it here, the other ones will be easier, so to speak."

Brakeman Leandro Fracasso of Brazil II says there's something about Team Brazil. The guys are always happy and always try to help each other.

Brazil I finished fifth; Brazil II, sixth out of eight teams. Not too bad. They don't have the experience, the equipment or the money like the other teams. But they're here. They're committed, and they've got a spark of magic.

"When you bang the walls, sometimes you see stars," Maleson admits. "If you can drive here, you can drive anywhere. I'm proud that I made it."