Chris Mazdzer reacts after his second run at the FIL Luge World Cup on Nov. 24, 2019 in Innsbruck, Austria.
When Chris Mazdzer hits the ice this weekend for his first luge world cup race of the season, he’ll be doing so with a sled he hopes will be faster than ever.
In a sport where sleds can clock up to 80 miles per hour and results are decided by the thousandth of a second, literally every moment counts, and that’s why USA Luge and its partners are continuously working to improve their sleds.
The national governing body has been working on that with partners Dow Chemical and Richard Childress Racing for the last couple years. RCR took things a step further in recent months by assigning Colby Mazzuca, an expert in aerodynamics, to work with the organization and Mazdzer in particular.
And last month USA Luge announced the project is getting another huge push from just 70 miles northwest of its home base in Lake Placid, New York. Thanks to a new grant from the National Science Foundation, the mechanical and aeronautical engineering department at Clarkson University’s Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering is joining the project to help design the fastest luge possible for U.S. sliders.
“This takes the project to the next level,” said Gordy Sheer, USA Luge director of marketing and sponsorships.
Long gone are the days when athletes build their own sleds. Sled technology is constantly evolving, and over the past decade in particular it’s become even more sophisticated.
That’s where the grant comes in.
Between Mazzuca and the other partners, USA Luge has been making progress on its sled technology. Believing the project could use more firepower, however, Sheer turned to the NSF, which in turn awarded a $221,517 grant to Clarkson.
Doug Bohl, who is an associate professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at Clarkson, was tapped to lead the effort for the Potsdam, New York-based school, along with fellow professor Brian Helenbrook. Both have worked with USA Luge in the past, and Bohl is a former president of the Adirondack Luge Club, which promotes the sport in upstate New York.
With the grant they will now work with AeroWorks — for which Mazzuca is also CEO — to try to find more efficiencies in the sleds’ aerodynamics.
So what exactly are they doing?
Well, that’s complicated.