THE OLYMPICS / WINTER GAMES AT ALBERTVILLE : U.S. Keeps Heading Downhill : Bobsled: Practice times don't improve with Walker's replacement in the four-man sled.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even though he doesn't have a place to sit, Herschel Walker will be at the top of the bobsled track today, hoping that:

--The United States wins a medal in the four-man competition.

--He doesn't get in the way.

Walker, who was bumped from his seat as pusher-brakeman of USA I in a major shake-up Wednesday, spent Thursday loading sleds onto trucks during the last day of training.

"This is a little difficult for me," Walker said. "I just hope I'm not going to be a distraction because of the controversy or anything, so maybe I'll just try not to draw any more attention."

In Thursday's practice, USA I attracted attention all on its own with two lackluster showings. The Randy Will-driven sled was 19th out of 30 in the first run and 10th out of 25 in the second. With Walker's replacement, Chris Coleman, USA I's push time was 22nd in the first run and 16th in the second, beating only Latvia, Japan, Jamaica, Mexico, Yugoslavia, USA II, two sleds from the Virgin Islands and Monaco I, driven by Prince Albert Grimaldi.

In the five practice runs while Walker was brakeman, the U.S. finished no lower than eighth, though the start time on his final run was only 20th of 40 sleds.

Walker refused to criticize USA I's practice times. "I think (the times) are OK . . . there's not much to say about them," he said, omitting reference to Will. "I guess they feel good about them, but I really don't know."

Will's USA I sled was actually outperformed by USA II, driven by Chuck Leonowicz, in the eight training runs. Leonowicz, side pushers Bryan Leturgez and Bob Weissenfels and brakeman Jeff Woodard had day-by-day finishes of 11th, fifth, third and 14th.

Walker said several members of the British and Jamaican teams had expressed their surprise at his expulsion from the top U.S. sled Wednesday. Walker was dumped for Coleman, Will's close friend and roommate on the World Cup circuit.

"It was so wild during training," Walker said. "A lot of guys told me they couldn't believe it. . . . I don't know if they even understand it. . . . In other countries, it's not where the driver dictates who is on the team, like we do it. But if Randy feels more comfortable with someone else, he should go with it. I'm still going to have a positive attitude. It's going to take more than this to get me down."

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