Catching Up With 3 X Olympian Jim Murray

By Brenna Payne and Gordy Sheer | Oct. 08, 2018, 4:48 p.m. (ET)

A luge hotbed outside of Missoula, Montana?

In 1966 that was the case. Most of the 1968 Olympic team got their start on a track that was built at the Lola Hot Springs. One athlete was a bull rider and another had raced sled dogs in Alaska. Yet another would find himself going between flying planes on intelligence missions in Vietnam as a first lieutenant, to sliding his luge sled on the track in Hammerstrand, Sweden in less than a week’s time.

That first lieutenant was Jim Murray, a 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympian. As a 5-year-old he remembers becoming interested in sliding sports when he saw bobsled for the first time in a black and white short film. As a sophomore at the University of Montana a sign that read “Luge club being formed” grabbed his eye.

Within a year he was president of the club and became a driving force to build a track nearby. The Lolo Hot Springs track had German and Norwegian luge veterans help build and design it.

The track “was a series of snow, icy, banked curves with nothing in between. There were very few sidewalls,” Murray said of the old track that was built by the athletes out of slush and a water hose.

The sleds were steered with reins and were either Austrian Gasser sleds or locally made, all metal sleds.

Murray retired as an athlete in 1977 but became the team manager in 1978. As an athlete in 1968 to a manager in 1980, Murray saw the evolution of the sport from one where the track was crudely constructed from slush and water to one that was built from cement and refrigerated like ice rinks.

Murray stays in touch with many of his teammates from his years in the sport. He became involved in real estate and has kept his pilot’s license. “I volunteer to fly kids for free through the EAA Young Eagles program,” said Murray.

All those who are involved in luge today have a Montana cattle rancher, turned luge Olympian and Vietnam veteran to thank for what the sport has become.