The Sochi, Russia 1,500 meter sliding track was first used for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Now it’s the site of the International Luge Federation’s World Championships this weekend. More than 100 athletes will compete including members of USA Luge, which is based in Lake Placid. Over the past few weeks the USA Luge team has done well in competition and this week the athletes are in Sochi preparing.
During a break in training the U.S. Luge team held a conference call about preparations for the World Championships. Summer Britcher is ranked 6th in the World Cup so far this season with four individual medals and a team relay silver. She says it’s always good motivation to go into the world competition on a high note. “I definitely feel good going into this weekend, had a good week of training and just excited to start racing.”
Two women on the luge team are competing in their rookie season although last year singles slider Ashley Farquharson raced in the junior world championships. “This being my first world champs I kind of feel like I’ve got nothing to lose and nothing to prove. I’m just trying to focus on having a good time and having clean runs ‘cause I know my runs are only as fast as I can make them and if they’re clean I’ve done my job.”
Tucker West is a veteran luger who has raced on the Sochi track before. “Ice profiles change all the time. This is one of those tracks that does change quite a bit every time we come here. We were fortunate enough to have training here in November. It’s a fast and challenging track and I think it should be an exciting race.”
2019 bronze medalist Emily Sweeney ended her competitive season during competition in Germany and has returned to Lake Placid to have neck issues evaluated. Olympic Silver medalist Chris Mazdzer has also been challenged by neck injuries but says he’s ready for this weekend’s competition. “Mentally I’m always about 100 percent. Physically doing great also. Had a little issue with my neck. We had an amazing chiropractor that met us two weeks ago now who got me back into shape. So honestly feeling great coming into this World Championships. The track here is awesome. It’s really smooth, really fast. I mean the conditions are absolutely fantastic and that makes it easier on the body. The smoother the track is the less wear and tear my body’s taking.”
His doubles teammate Jayson Terdiman reflected that it’s been four years since he’s competed in Sochi. “We were a little delayed on training because we got our sled a couple days late. We got six runs in and I actually tweaked my neck, pretty much the same thing Chris did in Norway, but lucky for me the chiropractor he had to wait for was already here and I got treated right away.”
This is the first time Mazdzer will slide doubles on the Sochi track. “After taking so many runs in singles it’s like I have to almost reprogram my brain to do doubles because those quick reactions that you make are different. They come in different places because of the speed difference and also because of the sled. But I thought the best way to deal with that was just to go right off the top of the doubles track for the very first run, which one of the coaches thought was a little um stupid pretty much! But because of that we’re not wasting any runs. It felt great. Jayson and I have always slid very well on Jayson’s old double sled and that’s what we’re on right now. We know how it drives and so far it’s going pretty well.”
The athletes said they are not worried about the coronavirus because protocols and precautions are in place by athletic organizations to avoid any type of disease outbreaks.
World championship luge races begin Friday in Sochi and continue through Sunday.