The U.S. National Luge team has been training in Sochi and will compete in the first World Cup races of the season in Austria this weekend. The team has close ties to New York’s North Country. During a conference call, several of the athletes talked about their training, working through injuries and expectations for the sliding season.
Luge is a sliding sport in which an athlete lies on their back on a sled and races down an iced track. The 2019-2020 World Cup Luge season begins this weekend for both singles and doubles sliders. USA Luge, based in Lake Placid, New York, believes it has a strong team and this could be a very competitive year.
Luger Tucker West says the men’s singles team looks strong after summer training. He’s also working with new equipment. “We’ve been trying to focus a bit more on aerodynamics. This sled is a bit bigger. It hugs us a bit better and the aerodynamics will hopefully be better. It hasn’t been tested yet but everything seems to be checking out well. It was a good week in Sochi and it showed promise but you never quite know until you get to the ice.”
Perhaps the best known slider is Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, the first American to medal in men’s single luge. He is recovering from a number of injuries, had surgery and took some time off to heal. He plans to continue to slide in both singles and doubles competition. “Honestly mentally I feel amazing. When I was sliding earlier this year both singles and doubles felt awesome. The good news is I have a fully torn tendon and I can’t tear it any more because it’s already torn. So it’s more about pain management at this point so if it does get bad I will go to doubles. That puts us in a position for the team. But honestly mentally I feel awesome and I know that I can slide well.”
Mazdzer’s doubles partner Jayson Terdiman says while they have not had as many practice runs as past years, they began partnering at age 14 and they know how to slide, compete and win medals together. They also have a new sled with new technology. “We both have a lot of experience at every track we’re going to go to. We both know how to race. We both have our own mental prep. We’re going to be good to go. We’re going to lay it out there on the line. I’ve been working really hard with the coaching staff on our new sled which right now is pretty much as best as it can be. I’m doing the final touches now on our steels and getting everything as good to go and putting us in as best of a chance as we can be to perform.”
Beyond the World Cup, a new Bobsled, Skeleton and Luge track is being built in Beijing in preparation for the 2022 Olympic Games. Summer Britcher is the designated U.S. luge athlete who will conduct test runs at the beginning of March. “I think it’s going to be such a cool process to be a part of to actually be one of the first people on a track and test it out, work together and figure out how to be fast. I’ve seen some construction pictures and I’ve seen some diagrams. They actually have I think it’s the world’s largest kreisel and it’s over 360 degrees /390 degrees/ We think 390 degrees. So that is just going to be such a different kind of feature to have on a track. Out of the Olympic tracks Calgary was the last Olympic track to have a kreisel so that’s cool that they’re adding that back in and it’ll be an interesting challenge.”
World Cup women’s singles and doubles luge races are on Saturday and the men will slide on Sunday.