LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The luge, bobsled and skeleton venue on Mount Van Hoevenberg outside Lake Placid is ready to open for the season Thursday morning, and will welcome a number of USA Luge athletes for the first official runs of the season at 8:30 AM Eastern Time.
These competitors, including 2014 Olympians Matt Mortensen, Jayson Terdiman, Summer Britcher and Aidan Kelly, will take their first runs of the fall season in Lake Placid and await the return of their teammates from an on-ice training camp in Lillehammer.
The Norwegian track was the site of the 1994 Olympic competitions and will host the Youth Olympic Games in February 2016.
“Over the next couple of weeks (in Lake Placid) I'm going to be trying out some new equipment,” said Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa. “So I'll be focusing on finding what works for me quickly. Then I can work on finding the same level of comfort sliding that I had last year.
“I'm very excited to get back on the ice. This is what I love to do, so going without it for seven months really builds up the anticipation and desire to get back at it.”
“My body appreciated the off-season,” said Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. “But now we’re excited to get back at it. Matt and I will try to get comfortable the first couple of days in Lake Placid. We did a lot of good work over the summer and are confident that we can pick up where we left off last year.”
Mortensen and Terdiman, in their first year as a doubles team, landed in seventh place in the 2014-2015 World Cup standings and anchored three World Cup medals for the U.S. in the team relay.
The returning Lillehammer group, which has been sliding since October 2, features Sochi bronze medalist and World Champion Erin Hamlin, with Olympic teammates Chris Mazdzer, Tucker West and Julia Clukey, as well as 2013 Junior World Champion Emily Sweeney. The lone U.S. doubles sled in Lillehammer is the team of Jake Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza, starting their first season together.
“We’ve had great conditions, even with some days of slower ice,” said Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y. “It’s been a productive week of getting comfortable again, or in some of our cases, on some new stuff. Just seeing how it feels before things get really rolling. So far so good. I’m now looking forward to the last few runs and then getting home to kick off the season in Lake Placid.”
The cold air has been trapped inside Lake Placid’s one mile chute, thanks to a refrigeration plant, numerous cold nights, a fresh coat of white paint and shades. This has enabled the course crew to deliver a fast, smooth surface, according to USA Luge coaches who have examined the site.
“Over the past week, we've had double sessions everyday, and have averaged four to six runs a day,” said West, from Lillehammer. The Ridgefield, Conn. native won the Lake Placid World Cup race last December among his three tour medals.
“These extra runs are a huge advantage going into the season. Now that we are already comfortable on the sled, we can really make the most out of every training run once we get back to Lake Placid for the opening of the track. Every run counts, and we took full advantage of that here.”
West and Mazdzer are expected to give USA Luge a consistent threat in singles events during the upcoming World Cup races, beginning in late November, in Igls, Austria.
“It’s always a nice time of year (in Lillehammer) as the weather outside is not bitter cold but the track can still be in really good shape,” remarked Mazdzer, a two-time Olympian from Saranac Lake, N.Y., who was fifth in the World Cup rankings last winter. “Some of my fastest runs have come from this pre-season training camp in the beginning of October. Right now I am just working on becoming more fluid and getting used to the extra muscle that I put on this summer from pre-season training. My starts are faster than they were this time last year and so far everything in my body is holding up.”
The American team will be on Lake Placid ice each morning through Oct. 31, which is the date of the first of two Norton Seeding Races. The second event will be in Park City, Utah on November 7, with the Norton National Championships set for November 8 on the 2002 Olympic course.