As team awaits completion of new Lake Placid facility in the fall, USA Luge athletes head to Italy for off-season start training

By Sandy Caligiore | May 20, 2019, 8:03 a.m. (ET)

– A group of six American athletes, including three Olympians, will travel to Meransen, Italy later this month for off-season start training. The team will be on the ice in the South Tyrolean training center, the home of the Italian luge team, from May 27 – June 2. Meransen’s start facility is outdoors and refrigerated. It is sunken into the ground.

USA Luge will be led by two-time Olympians Summer Britcher and Tucker West, as well as 2018 Olympian Emily Sweeney. Britcher and West won their respective divisions last summer in Meransen's annual international start competition.

Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., finished third last season in the World Cup rankings, while Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., took a World Championship bronze medal in a season that saw her race approximately half the schedule. West, of Ridgefield, Conn., found himself on the podium twice last winter racing the middle leg of the team relay.

They will be joined by Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., as well as Brittney Arndt and Ashley Farquharson, both of Park City, Utah. Gustafson enters his third year of World Cup racing and had a World Cup career best seventh place last year, while Arndt made her World Cup debut last season. Farquharson, up from the junior national team, will enter World Cup events for the first time this year.

Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. and Salt Lake City, competing in singles and doubles, will not make the trip as he continues progressing through shoulder rehabilitation. Mazdzer underwent surgery in February. His doubles partner, Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., also will not be in Italy.

Mazdzer and Terdiman recently returned from a trip to the Slovakian home of assistant coach Lubomir Mick where a new sled was produced for the twosome. Head coach Bill Tavares, assistant coach Bengt Walden and German consultant Andre Florschuetz were also involved in the birth of the new sled.

While USA Luge’s new, state-of-the-art start facility in Lake Placid is under construction – it started in early April – athletes must seek ice elsewhere. When finished in November, the modernized structure will be 140 feet longer than the original design that dated back to 1992. It will feature two side-by-side start tracks and four different start heights and angles. There will also be expanded areas for sled work and construction as well as refurbished offices for the team’s staff. The site remains in the organization’s longtime footprint on Church Street in Lake Placid.

The project is courtesy of a $5 million infusion from the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It’s being administered by the NY Olympic Regional Development Authority, and is using a number of regional contractors.