The USA Luge team is preparing for its first World Cup competition of the season. Members spoke by conference call from Austria with reporters Tuesday, including WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley.
Luge is the Olympic sport in which athletes slide down a track lying on their back on a sled. According to USA Luge Association, the average luge run’s vertical drop is 30 stories and speeds can exceed 95 mph.
Several of the international athletes are from the region and train at the tracks in Lake Placid and Park City, Utah. They are currently in Igls, Austria in advance of this weekend’s opening World Cup Competition. The track is where luge became an Olympic sport 51 years ago and is shorter than most others.
The last time the USA team competed together was during last winter’s Olympic games in Sochi.
2013 Junior World Champion Emily Sweeny is from Suffield, CT and has family in Saranac Lake, NY. She is excited to begin the first sliding of the season and has been doing some different types of training in the offseason. “Most of our training in the past has been very weight room based. Trying to put a lot of mass on because mass converts into power. We are a power sport. But I didn’t feel good on the sled. So this year I’ve started working with a local gym and their training is more gymnastics based. I still feel powerful and explosive, but just more comfortable overall.”
The luge athletes have been training all summer, and slider Aiden Kelly says confidence is also enhanced by changing sled techniques and new sled technology. “We have a new shell design this year which has been working out pretty well. It’s a little bit more comfortable for the male athletes. The sled is more aerodynamic. It’s mostly that and having Lubo (Lubomir Mick) as a new coach. He’s got some fresh ideas. He’s a former Slovakian coach and former Olympian. So it’s just nice to have a fresh set of eyes and some more comfortable sled technology because that’s probably one of the biggest parts of our sport is trying to be comfortable and relaxed.”
The athletes report that the weather in Igls has been warm and rainy. While that’s not ideal, they agree that preseason training has been good.
Olympic Bronze medalist Erin Hamlin of Remsen, NY has had four top 5 finishes at Igls. “It’s a relatively easy track. It’s pretty short though. There’s not a lot of time to really make up any mistakes. I’m comfortable on this track. The Olympics gave me a little bit of a confidence boost but at the same time I’m excited to just enjoy sliding and not feel much pressure for anything.”
USA Luge doubles teams have won four overall World Cup titles, the last in 2003. This year, newly paired Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, NY and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, PA have been training since March. Terdiman says the challenge has been getting back into driving mode and adjusting to his new partner’s style. “Each run we’re getting more and more comfortable. We’re getting better at communicating. If something does go wrong on the track as soon as we get done we talk it out and figure out what we need to do to better ourselves for the next run. So for me it’s becoming more and more comfortable even just by the run.” Matt Mortensen adds “For me I guess one of the major things that we had to iron out was exactly what each one of us meant when we’re talking about how we steer. We just have to figure out those little nuances with each other. When I tell him to steer, how much is it? What does that mean to him? When I ask him to roll back, how much does that mean? Every run we’re learning each other’s sliding abilities a little bit better.”
Following the competition in Austria, the athletes will be in Lake Placid for the second round of World Cup Luge. Training begins on December 3rd and races are scheduled on December 5th and 6th.