LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – USA Luge announced Monday that it will not compete in all 2020-2021 World Cup events due to the coronavirus pandemic. Citing athlete and staff safety in its statement, the national team will forego the first four World Cup events in Austria and Germany slated to run between Nov. 28 and Dec. 20. The American sliders will begin international competition after the New Year on a date and track to be determined.
“Ever since this pandemic broke, we have maintained a commitment to the safety of everyone in the organization, with the athletes at the top of that list,” said Jim Leahy, USA Luge CEO/Executive Director. “We are a group that’s geared and motivated by racing, so to take this action is disappointing. But in counsel with our team physician Dr. Eugene Byrne, and getting input from other health experts, we believe that staying in the U.S. until the end of the calendar year is our safest course of action.”
The U.S. squad will train on home ice in November and December, with seeding races and a Norton National Championship to be decided prior to the holiday break. The team currently plans to depart for Europe in the final week of December. All members will be COVID tested upon arrival and then begin preparations for belated competition after the New Year.
“This is certainly not the schedule that we envisioned, but it’s one that has been thrust upon us,” stated Robert Fegg, USA Luge Head Coach. “In the short term, we are anxious to return to sliding and getting as many runs in as possible prior to heading overseas. In the meantime, our athletes are working every day on achieving faster starts in our new refrigerated training center, as well as working diligently on their physical conditioning.”
The season features nine World Cup events and the World Championships in Koenigssee, Germany Jan. 29-31. The entire World Cup circuit will spend much of February in Yanqing, China to pre-homologate (certify) the new track for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The process will include an international training week, followed by an official training week, and conclude with the pre-Olympic World Cup test races Feb. 20-21.
Although it is currently unknown when the U.S. will make its European debut, Leahy added that Koenigssee and Beijing will be the most important events on this winter’s calendar.