FONTVIEILLE, MONACO -- Winter sports in this tiny principality usually range from swimming in the Mediterranean to rolling dice at a casino.
But a local athlete, Albert Grimaldi, has his hopes set on piloting a two-man bobsled at the Winter Olympics in Calgary.
Grimaldi, better known to the rest of the world as Prince Albert, has been training up to four hours a day since March -- sprinting, lifting weights and pushing a bobsled on wheels along an outdoor track.
The prince was introduced to bobsledding during a 1985 ski trip in Switzerland and has spent the past three years learning proper techniques at summer camps and winter tournaments. Most of his fitness training has been done in Monaco, a winter haven of warmth.
"I came to bobsledding quite by accident," said Grimaldi, 29, who is 6 feet and 172 pounds. "I was on a skiing holiday in St. Moritz and took a guest ride. I liked it. I thought it was a thrilling experience. It is scary. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was apprehensive at first."
Grimaldi, an avid swimmer, runner and soccer player who also has sailed, fenced and thrown the javelin, practiced bobsledding as a hobby until last winter, when one of his two Swiss coaches suggested he try competing internationally.
"It's a big challenge. Something deep inside me lives by challenges," Grimaldi said. "I guess every athlete has in the back of his mind being good at a sport and making it big. Certainly, when I started bobsledding I didn't think of being in the Olympics some day."
A typical week's workout for Grimaldi and the two Monaco athletes who are vying to be brakeman on the sled (Gilbert Bessi, a sprinter who has run 10.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash, and David Tomatis, a triathlete) includes four sessions of weight training as well as sprinting, calisthenics and work on bobsledding techniques.
Jean Baggioni, the team's French trainer, said Grimaldi, who was involved in soccer, swimming, track and tennis while attending Amherst College in Massachusetts, uses his athletic background to overcome his lack of bobsledding experience.
"When he's on the bobsled he's not Prince Albert, he's Albert Grimaldi," said Baggioni. "It's different because he's a prince, but we have to forget that sometimes."
Grimaldi and his brakeman have been training in Calgary and will compete in World Cup events before deciding whether to attend the Olympics. Since Monaco is a member of the International Bobsled Federation, it automatically is allowed an Olympic entry and the prince's team is the only one in Monaco.
"It's going to be up to us. If we don't feel right or feel we're going to be a total disaster at the Olympics, we won't go," Grimaldi said. "But we're going to make it."