Looking For Talent … And Sleds

By Tom Robinson | March 07, 2013, 1:55 p.m. (ET)
Corporal Peter Kandianas, Mike Miller, holding his son Michael, 4,
while standing with Lilly, 9, and Emma, 6, next to USA Luge's Gordy
Sheer and USA Junior National Team member Theresa Buckley.

PALMERTON, Pa. – Members of USA Luge are accustomed to making trips to Blue Mountain Ski Area. They bring training sleds to the resort in eastern Pennsylvania so they can introduce winter sports enthusiasts to the luge while also searching for youngsters with potential.

Gordy Sheer, a 1998 Olympic silver medalist in luge, found himself on the lookout again after his latest trip to the Pennsylvania resort in February. This time, however, Sheer was searching for sleds, not someone proficient in sliding down a mountain on them.

Sheer, the director of marketing and sponsorship from USA Luge, is answering to other titles these days.

During a return trip to Blue Mountain March 5, Sheer introduced himself as “chief sled dropper.”

Sheer’s latest visit to the ski resort was to pick up the sleds, which had been relocated and returned to the sport’s national governing body after falling out of the back of a truck about 25 miles away. Sheer said he did not immediately realize that the sleds had been dropped in the road.

Mike Miller, a resident of Seemsville in nearby Northampton County and father of three, found the sleds on his way home from work.

Sheer did his best to have fun with the incident when the sleds were returned. Miller and his three children were among those in attendance at a news conference at the base of the mountain. They were presented with USA Luge items, including jackets and sweatshirts, as a show of appreciation.

“Our marketing strategy is to throw sleds out of the back of a U-Haul,” Sheer said as he addressed local television and newspaper reporters while discussing the story that received attention from ESPN, Sports Illustrated and others.

Miller helped make sure the story had a happy ending after being curious when he spotted the sleds on the side of the road in front of a home in East Allen Township, near Allentown. Miller decided to return to the home to find out of the sleds were children’s sleds and whether they were available.

What Miller found out was the homeowner discovered them in the road and simply pulled them out of traffic for safety. The sleds were given to Miller, who still did not know precisely what they were.

The sleds were still in the back of Miller’s truck when a friend told him about a local television broadcast that described five sleds that were lost by USA Luge.

Following a call to the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Bethlehem, Miller was on his way to returning the sleds, with the assistance of Corporal Peter Kandianis, who also attended the news conference.

Troopers at the Pennsylvania State Police Barracks Troop M in
Bethlehem helped make sure the missing sleds were returned
to USA Luge.

Sheer said the sleds, which are manufactured in Austria and valued between $400 and $600 each, would have had to be replaced through insurance. Instead, they will be put back to use in a program that has helped locate potential lugers like 16-year-old Theresa Buckley, an Allentown native who recently returned from the Youth World Cup circuit in Europe and was present for the news conference.

Buckley was discovered at one of the events Sheer helped organize at Blue Mountain.

“I saw posters in the lodge for a clinic,” Buckley said. “A couple of friends and I thought it sounded fun and we tried it.”

The sleds, a modified version of what is used in luge competition, are used for demonstrations at public events. Sheer said that at least 1,000 kids try the sleds each year.

“We try to introduce 15 to 20 new kids to land on our junior development team,” said Sheer, who also conducts slider searches on wheels at venues other than ski resorts.

Blue Mountain has become one of the top sites for recruiting, drawing as many as 460 to try luge in a single weekend. Whereas other resorts modify a ski trail, Blue Mountain has constructed its own track for luge, so USA Luge does not have to be on site for someone to try the sport.

Blue Mountain general manager James Dailey said Sheer helped come up with an attachment to the resort’s grooming equipment that was able to do the work necessary to create a luge track.

According to Dailey, the luge run is included with a tubing ticket on weekends and holidays. The resort has helmets and sleds and an attendant provides some brief training for those trying it the first time.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Tom Robinson is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.