CALGARY, FEB. 20 -- What with several warm-weather competitors, and too much warm weather, a genuine prince and a couple of fun-run teams with drivers in their 50s, the opening runs of two-man bobsled today were delightfully strange.

Even the leaderboard's list of drivers seemed somewhat out of order, with Soviet Ianis Kipours at the top instead of defending Olympic champion East German Wolfgang Hoppe, who dropped from first to third place after the second of the two runs held today.

The conditions at Canada Olympic Park were more suited to golf than the ice needed for this competition, which concludes with two more runs Sunday.

"If the temperature doesn't change tonight," said the U.S. coach, Jeff Jost, "we're in trouble. Isn't it supposed to be 32 degrees around here somewhere?"

The first U.S. team (driver Brent Rushlaw and pusher Mike Aljoe) was 19 places behind the top sled; the second U.S. sled, driven by Matt Roy, was 24th, a spot behind Prince Albert of Monaco.

That was not as stunning as it might seem, since His Serene Highness was lucky enough to be the first starter on the opening run. The later the start, the more the track resembled a 1,475-meter snow cone.

Roy said he was "pretty pleased" with his run. If the weather continues warm, he said, starting positions will even out over the four runs.

"We're hoping for a top 10," Roy said, "but I don't know if that's possible."

Chicago Bears wide receiver Willie Gault did not compete today, but did push for a forerunner sled. Roy said two other U.S. pushers had better times than Gault in a training run Thursday.

"I thought it would be a raceoff here. Instead the coach's decision was to race sleds one and two no matter what they did in practice," Gault said.

"Randy {driver Randy Wills} and I have been faster than them all the way. You can say what you want, but times don't lie. I was pushing faster than the others, but they didn't give us a real chance. . . . "

Hoppe and some of the others driving for a medal were angry over the two-man field being so large. Forty-one sleds took part, including two from Mexico, two from the Virgin Islands and one each from Jamaica and the Netherlands Antilles.

"When you get as many inexperienced drivers in a race as we have here, it hurts the experienced drivers," Hoppe said Friday. "Ideally, there should only be a maximum of 25 to 30 sleds in a competition of this magnitude."

The difference in time from first (1 minute 55.48 seconds) to last (Portugal's 2:06.03) was considerable. But the Mexicans and the 50ish transplanted Virgin Islanders did not mind being near the bottom. The Jamaican sled was 31st.

The Virgin Island sleds are manned by men who thought bobsled would be a neat way to crack into the Olympics. Their quest became serious two years ago, when John Reeve, Harvey Hook, John Foster and Chris Sharpless passed driving school in Austria.

"It was Foster's idea," said the driver of the second sled, Hook, a former resident of Cabin John, Md. "He'd been to the summer Olympics three times {representing the Virgin Islands in sailing} and wanted to find a way into the Winter Games."

Hook is a native Washingtonian, having lived in Cabin John, Md., until he and his wife decided on a move to the Virgin Islands about eight years ago.

At 52, Hook said he believes he is the oldest competitor in the XV Olympics.

Sneers directed towards Prince Albert disappeared quickly. He proved quite competent, holding 13th place after the first run with the help of that preferred start.