Two Connecticut lugers will race down the ice for Team USA this February. They qualified earlier this month for the 23rd Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Emily Sweeney of Suffield said she’ll need her entire body to be on point if she wants to succeed in her first Olympic games.
“With luge, we steer with every part of our body really,” Sweeney, 24, said. “Our sleds are very reactive to ourselves. So, you’ll see our legs kind of scissor a little bit and that helps scissor the sled to help one edge dig in and push yourself over to the other side.”
Called the fastest sport on ice, lugers lie on their back with their feet pointing toward an icy downhill slope that’s about a mile long—going in excess of 80 miles per hour.
Sweeney has run the PyeongChang track twice so far. She said the first time she ran it, the difficult curb combinations forced her to hit the walls of the track more than ever.
The team changed its sled set-up to adjust to the track.
“We came back in the beginning of this season and I really loved the track,” Sweeney said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Ridgefield native Tucker West has also run PyeongChang twice. He said he likes to get off to a fast start and that the relatively flat top of the track will help him do just that. But, navigating the winding slope could give lugers trouble.
“The curve nine-to-12 transition is very, very difficult,” West said. “In the test event, we saw that take out many sliders.”
Four years ago, West finished 22nd in Sochi. At that time, he was 18 years old and the youngest ever male to represent the U.S. in a Winter Olympiad. This time around, he said, he’s feeling pretty good.
“I am confident in the training I put in in the summer time so, I know that come race day, if I’m healthy, I’ll have one of the fastest starts out there.”
Both athletes overcame a grueling qualification campaign that involved five World Cup events in just a month. They’ll have four more to run before they get to PyeongChang.