LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – When members of the USA Luge National Team gather each September for the annual Norton USA Luge Start Championships in Lake Placid, it can only mean that a new racing season is fast approaching.
The start race takes place on ice at the team’s refrigerated training complex at 57 Church Street in Lake Placid on Sept. 23 at 2 PM, and will be streamed live at www.usaluge.org.
This will be the final start event at the current location, as USA Luge and the Olympic Regional Development Authority, with funding from New York State, will embark next spring on a facility expansion and update. The 2019 start competition will be held in this new structure.
Pyeongchang Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer will be in action on the team’s ramps. Mazdzer will also be the recipient of a special tribute from USA Luge for being the first American to win a men’s Olympic singles medal.
The entire event is open to the public free of charge, with rides down the ramps as a fundraiser to be offered after the competition. Donations to benefit the athletes and programs of USA Luge will be graciously accepted. USA Luge is a not-for-profit organization focused on recruiting, developing, training and supporting athletes to represent the United States in all international luge competitions, including the Olympic Games.
A group of recent Olympians and national team athletes will be in the competitive field, featuring some of the world’s fastest starters.
One of the top starters on the international scene is Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. The 2014 and 2018 Olympian, and winner of three World Cup races in his young career, seeks to acquire his seventh start title.
Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., now training in Salt Lake City, is another with a strong start, particularly his quick getaway ability in the team relay. Mazdzer, an avid outdoorsman, is a three-time Olympian. In addition to his medal in South Korea, he finished third in the overall World Cup three seasons ago, just the second American man to achieve top three status.
Rising national team member Jonny Gustafson of Massena, N.Y., will test himself against his older and more seasoned teammates. Gustafson was the fastest from the start handles as a Junior World Cup racer. Last year marked just his second at the World Cup level.
The women’s field is headlined by Summer Britcher, a 2014 and 2018 Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa. Britcher currently holds the track record in Pyeongchang, and with five career World Cup victories, is the all-time USA Luge career leader.
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., is not expected to race in this event, but will participate in team sliding this fall. Sweeney was on the Lake Placid World Cup podium in December 2015, the historic day that saw USA Luge sweep the medals (with Erin Hamlin and Britcher) for the first time in singles annals. Sweeney, a 2018 Olympian, raced to her first World Cup gold medal last season prior to the Games.
National C Team athletes Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., and Grace Weinberg, of Pittsfield, Vt., will join the field, along with graduating junior Brittney Arndt, of Park City, Utah.
The start race will come one week before the competitors return to the full-length track in Lillehammer, Norway. USA Luge National Team athletes and their junior teammates will open the fall campaign on the 1994 Olympic track.
The 2018-2019 Viessmann World Cup luge tour will feature four stops in November and December, starting with Igls, Austria November 24-25, before coming to North America.
Weeks two and three will occur at Whistler and Calgary, respectively. The fourth weekend of the campaign will take place in Lake Placid on Saturday and Sunday, December 15-16, with men’s and women’s singles, doubles and sprint races in all four disciplines.