Plan C for USA Luge seeding races
LAKE PLACID — USA Luge officials hope the third time is the charm for the rest of their 2017-18 World Cup seeding races, after being canceled twice.
Now the athletes hope their stay this week in the 2018 Olympic host city of Pyeongchang, South Korea, will give them a final roster for the season.
The first round of seeding races was held Oct. 13 at the Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, where Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, Tucker West and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman won their respective divisions. It was supposed to be the first of three seeding races, with the second and third to be held Oct. 18 in Calgary and Oct. 28-29 in Lake Placid.
But it didn’t work out that way. Calgary’s seeding races were canceled due to sand on the track.
“It was brutal,” USA Luge head coach Bill Tavares said last week at the organization’s Lake Placid headquarters. “I probably could have had them slide, but the other coaches would have probably killed me because the work that they would have had to do to fix all that equipment that I would have ruined sending them down that hill, it would have set us back this year.”
Their training runs at the Calgary track went off just fine, but then a weather front blew in.
“It wasn’t just a normal weather front,” Tavares said. “It was a weather front with over 70 mph winds.”
The problem wasn’t with the track personnel; they did everything they could to rectify the situation. It was the construction at the ski hill next to the track that caused the problem.
“They’re piling dirt up and loosening sand and dirt, and basically the 70 mph winds came and picked up that sand and put it right in the track,” Tavares said. “That much dirt, you just can’t clean.”
With the seeding races in Calgary canceled, it was time for Plan B.
But USA Luge’s luck didn’t get any better when the athletes were supposed to spend all of last week training at the Mount Van Hoevenberg sliding track in Lake Placid before holding the second and third Norton Seeding Races and the Norton National Championships on the weekend. That’s when the term “weather dependent” snuck in, along with unseasonably warm weather and torrential rain earlier in the week.
“You gotta love 70 degrees,” Tavares said.
With a lemon of a week, the 16-member squad did what they could do; they fell back on their summer training program, which included sessions at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and indoor start training on the artificially refrigerated ramps at the team’s headquarters on Church Street.
With no sliding in Lake Placid, it’s now time for Plan C. The team will spend Nov. 2-11 on the Olympic ice at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, site of the luge competitions for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. The second seeding race, which will finalize the World Cup team, will be held there on Sunday (Saturday night in the U.S.). The third seeding race has been canceled entirely, and dates for the Norton National Championships are yet to be determined.
The nine-race World Cup season begins Nov. 18 and 19 in Innsbruck, Austria, and will include a stop in Lake Placid Dec. 12-16. The U.S. Olympic Luge Team will be nominated to the U.S. Olympic Committee on Dec. 16 in Lake Placid.
The 10 athletes on the Olympic team will be comprised of three men, three women and two doubles teams, and they will be unveiled on the night of Dec. 16 at the Conference Center in Lake Placid.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held Feb. 9 to 25.