The Road to Sochi takes USA Luge athletes to Germany for Thanksgiving

Nov. 27, 2013, 1:19 p.m. (ET)

WINTERBERG, Germany - Turkeys and touchdowns. A tradition every American knows too well. 

Thanksgiving Day is arguably the most anticipated American holiday on the calendar. The United States virtually shuts down so folks can visit family, and hunker down for a feast that would make the pilgrims proud, usually with Lions and Bears playing on a television set in the background, although this year, it’s Lions and Packers.

More people travel for this holiday than Christmas, New Year’s and grandma’s birthday, combined.

But lots of Americans don’t get this experience, particularly winter sports athletes who, in some cases, will be worlds away on this Thanksgiving holiday. Such is the cost of traveling the Road to Sochi. 

"This will be Thanksgiving number 12 spent away so it’s kind of the norm now," said two-time USA Luge Olympian Erin Hamlin. "I still Skype into dinner at home though, as long as they start eating early enough."Training for the Winterberg World Cup races run from Wednesday through Friday, but for the U.S. team, there must be time for the great American eating pastime."We ALWAYS have Thanksgiving," exclaimed the Remsen, N.Y. racer. "And we will have our third annual Turkey Bowl. The luge team has mad football skills."

One of the key figures behind the team’s Thanksgiving-away-from-home concept is assistant coach Bill Tavares, a member of the U.S. Army. 

"Bill actually stocked us up on some stuff from the U.S. base in Garmisch (Germany)," continued Hamlin. "So we will have a few familiar items this year. Tradition dictates that the youngest member of the team always gives the Thanksgiving speech so Tucker (West) has been mentally preparing for his second one."Once the Thanksgiving table is cleared, it’ll be time to concentrate on the third weekend of racing. Nations Cup qualification on Friday will lead into the World Cup action on Saturday and Sunday.

Thus far, 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., is the lone U.S. luger to earn a nomination to the Sochi Olympic team. Hamlin, who satisfied the selection criteria last Saturday with her second top nine result in as many weeks, could join Mazdzer by verifying with a top five race this weekend.

The 10-member U.S. Olympic Luge Team will be nominated on Dec. 14 in Park City, Utah.