LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The new normal in the world of USA Luge delayed the team’s return to fall ice as the athletes will begin training on the full track on Monday (Nov. 2) at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid. The old normal would have placed the team on ice in Lillehammer a month ago, but international travel restrictions and quarantine mandates caused by the coronavirus precluded the traditional autumn trip to Norway.
“Like most things, it feels really strange not to be sliding right now,” stated Emily Sweeney, of Lake Placid, 2018 Olympian and 2019 World Championship bronze medalist. “Things will look different, but I am definitely looking forward to getting back on a sled.”
For the past six months, team members have executed their start training in the organization’s brand-new refrigerated complex adjacent to the Lake Placid Olympic and Paralympic Training Center (OPTC). Most athletes have done their physical training at the OPTC, while several have used the weight room at team headquarters. Two weeks ago, 2014 and 2018 Olympian Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn., grabbed a team-leading eighth start title. But now it’s time for West and his teammates to venture to the 20-year old venue, located five miles outside the two-time Olympic village.
“Despite the ever-changing world that we currently find ourselves in, I am really excited to get back on ice because it’s what I love doing and brings a little normalcy and structure back into my life,” said 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer. “Regardless of what happens this season in terms of travel, competition and restrictions, there is so much that can be accomplished in terms of equipment. Even if we stay on one track all year, we will be able to accomplish a lot in terms of being prepared for the upcoming Beijing Olympics.”
The American contingent will include veteran national team members and several graduating juniors who got a taste of World Cup racing at the end of last winter. Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. and Salt Lake City, has rehabilitated after two surgeries at the end of last season and rejoined the remainder of the team a week ago. He is now concluding a quarantine period at the OPTC.
The group won 11 World Cup medals last season and scored a World Championship bronze in the team relay with Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., joining West and the doubles team of Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman. They were just 0.02 of a second from the silver medal.
“At this point, I’m just excited to get on the sled,” said West. “Luge is our passion and at this point, we miss it. We’re excited to get on (the track) and start racing at some point.”
That World Cup start-up date for this team will occur in January, giving USA Luge two months of repetitions and equipment testing to prepare and take advantage of the last two months of the pre-Olympic season. The second half of the campaign includes the World Championships in Koenigssee, Germany and the pre-Olympic training week and World Cup action in Beijing to end the year.
“I’m very excited to be getting back on the sled,” added Terdiman, a two-time Olympian from Berwick, Pa. “It’s been a long off-season. It’s finally time to feed the adrenaline addiction once again.”
In other international news, the Junior World Championships in Winterberg, Germany have been canceled due to the pandemic. Also, all Youth A World Cups have been wiped from the schedule as well as the two previously scheduled Junior World Cup races in La Plagne, France and the Junior World Cup races in Park City, Utah. A pair of Junior World Cups in Koenigssee remain on the slate along with a single event at Whistler, B.C.
The World Cup tour is scheduled to get underway in Igls, Austria Nov. 27-29, followed by three race weekends in Germany prior to the holidays.