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Slider set for wild ride as she tackles ?decapitator



CESANA, Italy, AAP ? An edgy Michelle Steele is battling to be ready for a skeleton track described by coach Terry Holland as 'so wild, anything could happen.'

The 19-year old Australian Institute of Sport slider has been something of a revelation in skeleton, recording four top six performances in the World Cup after just 14 months involvement in the sport.

But the litmus test for Steele, who was born in Gladstone and spent her early childhood on Boyne Island, comes tonight (AEST) when she takes to a track with a curve dubbed "the decapitator'' which has already cleaned up seven women in the luge.

Steele has struggled on the highly technical course thus far coming 14th, 15th, 12th and 14th in her four training runs and Holland believes expectations need to be checked.

'She is racing against people who have been competing on the World Cup circuit for 10 or 11 years who are just blown away by this 19-year-old who has come from out of nowhere in 14 months and has kicked them around on a number of tracks,' Holland said.

'The fact that it's not the most conducive track for her right now is not a big deal ? let's see what we can do in a year and a half.'

There was a feeling that a medal may be a chance for Steele given her rapid rise in the sport but a lack of time on the track is leaving slider and coach scrambling to get it together on the night.

Steele, who now hails from Bundaberg, came to the sport from surf lifesaving as part of an AIS talent identification program in August 2004.

The powerful beach sprinter, who is already one of the best starters in the sport, edged out a final group of three other sliders in the program ? including world junior champion Melissa Hoar ? to claim Australia's sole spot in Turin.