For USA Luge, the Olympic season is here.
The team’s home track in Lake Placid, New York, opened for training Thursday, with two-time Olympic luge qualifier Tucker West getting the distinction of taking the first official run down the icy chute at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
It’s unseasonably warm in the Adirondack Mountains this week, which means the conditions for sliding are far from ideal and it took some extra work for the track crew to make Thursday’s training runs happen. But the significance of being the first slider on the track wasn’t lost on West.
“First run at home is always fun,” West said. “I hold Lake Placid very near and dear to my heart. I always do well here, and it’s special getting that first run. It’s good. You’re hoping and praying that they took all the shovels out of the track, and they did, so it was good.”
They weren’t the first runs of the season for U.S. sliders. The luge team got some work in earlier this month at tracks in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia and Sigulda, Latvia. And some members of the bobsled and skeleton teams are currently getting their first look at the track built for this winter’s Beijing Olympics, spending about three weeks training in Yanqing, China.
“They have thought about every detail for this track,” U.S. skeleton athlete John Daly said from China on Thursday. “I don’t think they missed a thing. The track will be tricky and make for an exciting Olympic Games.”
USA Luge will get its first look at the Olympic track next month, and the World Cup season begins in Yanqing on Nov. 20-21.
There are already some concerns. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer had surgery to repair a broken foot — an injury he suffered in Russia — and it’s unknown when he’ll be back on the ice. Mazdzer competes in singles and doubles, so his absence also means that the top U.S. doubles sled, with partner Jayson Terdiman, is off-ice as well. And women’s Olympic hopeful Brittney Arndt got a concussion in a training crash earlier this month.
“It’s tough to watch all these problems happen to these people,” West said. “But they’re all very self-reliant people and I know that they’ll come out stronger even through the problems. Obviously, you worry for them and try to help them in any way that you can, but I know that they’ll be fine.”
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