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Luge Athletes Discuss Sliding And Training Challenges

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The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin on February 9th in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  With just over three months left athletes are on an intense training and World Cup racing schedule as they compete to make the elite teams.  But spring and summer-like weather has cancelled training at some training sites.   USA Luge is in Lake Placid this week and most of the team’s sliding sessions have been canceled.  Several of the athletes held a conference call to talk about track conditions and what it means for upcoming competitions.
USA Luge teams have been training and racing since the end of September in Norway and Canada.  But weather has not been cooperating.  In Calgary sand was blown onto the track, canceling runs.  The athletes are now in Lake Placid.  While they did some training Monday on the Mount Van Hoevenberg track, high temperatures and rain scuttled training on Tuesday and Wednesday.  

Doubles team racer Matt Mortensen noted that the weather, and therefore the change in training, wasn’t really a surprise.  “As a team we’re fortunate enough that we had training at different locations  before actually training in Lake Placid. We knew coming into this training week that the weather in Lake Placid has been all over the place and that bobsled and skeleton had their selection races the week before and a lot of those races were cancelled or moved during the week.  So I think that our team is really strong and  that we’re focused on moving ahead into the training week in Pyeongchang.  So that’s where our focus is at. We’re not going to let the cancelled training this week hold us back in any way, shape or form.”

Despite some problems Saranac Lake luger Chris Mazdzer agrees the overall training schedule has been good.  “There are some teams in Europe that haven’t had any good training. It’s been warm in Europe. So we’re actually pretty lucky that we did get a solid week in Whistler and had amazing training. So although this isn’t ideal we’re still still in a pretty good spot.”

Tucker West adds that the training schedule has actually been mostly on track for a normal season.  “Typically we shoot for 150 runs before the first World Cup. I haven’t seen the latest run count but I think we’re up to around 80 or 90. So once we go to Pyeongchang we should be close to that 150 number.  So we’re not really missing out on much training.”

The team will next train on the Olympic track in South Korea in early November.  They will spend 10 days sliding during international training. Mazdzer, who has previous experience there, says becoming familiar with that track is crucial.  “Everytime I’ve gone back the track has been completely different. So the team we’re going to have to get to Pyeongchang, look at the track, take a couple runs and figure out exactly what we need to do.  But I’ve also been there when it’s really really easy. So I have no idea what it’s going to be like but we’re ready.”

Luge seeding races, which are part of the Olympic selection process, and National Championships scheduled for this weekend at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid have been canceled due to warm weather and rain.

USA Luge will nominate 10 athletes for its Olympic team on  December 16.

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