Local doubles luge duo ready to slide into new season
USA Luge National team members Chevonne Forgan of Chelmsford, Massachusetts and Sophie Kirkby of Ray Brook are preparing for their first-ever FIL World Cup in Lake Placid. The World Cup will take place on Dec. 8 and 9 at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
The duo now live in the Lake Placid area and compete together in women’s doubles luge. Being on their home track at the start of the season, the doubles team not only doesn’t have to worry about travel but also already possesses experience on every turn of the track.
“It’s definitely a technical track, and we love it,” Forgan said.
Another big plus they’re both anticipating is the turnout. Being regulars at races around the world, they don’t often see familiar faces.
“I can’t wait to see a bunch of American spectators,” Kirkby said. “It’ll be great to see familiar faces and get a bunch of cheers.”
While luge has been an individual sport for decades, doubles luge converts it to a team sport. Turning and steering a luge sled requires countless little movements of the legs and feet, shifting of one’s weight and making small shoulder movements — the combination of which helps a doubles luge team navigate the track safely in the fastest possible time. Those vital but completely unseen moves are the recipe for a team’s success in a sport that’s measured to the thousandth of a second.
As the person on the bottom on of the doubles sled, Kirkby gives up most of her sight.
“Sophie’s much more in contact with the sled, so she has a lot more feeling,” Forgan said. “It’s sort of like I do the driving, and Sophie saves all my mistakes.”
“I give up a lot of visuals, but then I’ve developed good peripheral vision to see around her head and neck,” Kirkby said. “At the same time, I’m right against the fiberglass of the pod, which is the part of the sled we lie in, and I have a better feeling of what is about to happen. Are we too high on the curve? Do I need to roll back, in other words, do I have to push my shoulder back at the end of the curve to help us out. Things like that I get to make better judgments on because I’m more connected.”
Each doubles team member is making their own moves while simultaneously working with their teammate.
“It takes a lot of communication that’s done while we can’t look at one another or communicate with words,” Forgan said. “All of it within split seconds.”
This level of cooperation that Kirkby and Forgan describe all happens in the short time they’re rocketing down a luge track in training or during international competition. In the track they’re both 100% absorbed in the moment, making this advanced, cooperative state of flow happen instantaneously. It takes a lot of experience and mental focus, not to mention a level of cohesion far beyond other sports.
“We’re in a partnership now,” Forgan said. “Since there are two of us, if one of us were ever not feeling motivated, we’re not simply just letting ourselves down. The other is affected, too, and that makes it easier to stay strong. We both want to be at that high level, and we’re constantly pushing each other.”
Kirkby added that another motivator is finding fun in the sport.
“That’s why we chose to do it in the first place. Just pulling off the handles at the top and going really fast from there,” she said. “Then, on top of that, I get this amazing team partnership. I get to travel the world and have all these great experiences in our sport.”
– Having grown up in Ray Brook, Kirkby was always close to Mount Van Hoevenberg.
“My dad brought me to Van Ho to try it out when I was 8,” Kirkby said. “After my first run, my dad asked if I wanted to go again. I said ‘yes,’ and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
That start at just 8 years old came with the Adirondack Luge Club. She must have made an impression because when Kirkby turned 10, she received an invitation to the development team from USA Luge. Now, she’s 22 and has been sliding for 14 years.
Forgan is originally from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where she got her first luge experience at age 12 in one of the White Castle national slider searches.
“They had a tryout at one of the middle schools I went to, and we tried it on wheels,” she said. “A few weeks later, we got an email inviting me to Lake Placid, so it was very exciting to come up here for a few days.”
Shortly after, Chevonne completed the screening process and made the development team. Both athletes competed against one another as singles for many years before starting doubles in 2020.
“We’ve been on the doubles side together for three seasons now,” Forgan said. “Once we started doubles, that was it. We gave up singles for good.”
For both athletes, there is also life beyond luge. In both cases, their outside interests are driven by their environment, living in the Adirondacks.
Kirkby’s biggest outside interest is ceramics. With a studio membership, she regularly works clay on the wheel at the Lake Placid Center of the Arts, producing Adirondack-themed mugs among other things. Her interest is intense enough that she’s even looking to move this pursuit beyond the hobby stage.
“I’m actually going to start a business next year called Sophie’s Ceramics and Services,” she said.
For Forgan, living in Lake Placid gives her easy access to the natural world, something she finds especially meaningful.
“It’s such a great outdoorsy place,” she said. “We’re here all summer, and I love the hiking and the swimming.”
She’s also become a bird-watching enthusiast.
“Birds are really my thing, now. I love being able to identify them and their sounds,” Forgan said.
Having started their sport at young ages and now meeting with such success, Kirkby and Forgan offer some good advice for young people. Regardless of which sport they’re interested in, Kirkby said casting aside one’s fear to give new things a try is most important.
“You don’t know until you try it,” she said. “Sports are a great development in human life, teaching you discipline and helping with personal strength.”
“For kids, my advice is just give it your all,” Forgan said. “Go all in and see where it will take you.”
Given the opportunities this duo has met with, the travel, personal strength, medals and so much more that they are enjoying and achieving in their chosen sport, that seems like wise advice.
For Forgan and Kirkby, their daily work and schedules are entirely dependent on the seasons. During their fast-paced winter luge racing season, they get a few solid days of training sandwiched between the travel days as they prepare for each new competition in different countries around the globe.
“We have maybe two runs each day, and then it’s race day,” Forgan said. “In competition, we have to make every run count. We can’t make the same mistake twice, so we’re constantly working to get that perfect run.”
“Summers we’re lifting weights and pulling starts on our indoor refrigerated start ramp at USA Luge,” Kirkby said. “The start is a very important aspect of luge. Then in winter, all our trainings are on the tracks with some weightlifting sessions, but weekends we have race day. Then Mondays, we’re traveling to the next location, driving or flying, so it gets very busy day by day.”
Traveling the world is part of the fun and excitement of being a professional luge athlete, yet the duo also cite it as a challenge. Week after week they travel from one country to another and often from one continent to another. Each time they carefully pack everything into cargo boxes to ensure equipment isn’t damaged along the way. After receiving it on the other end, they transport and unload it and get ready for training the following day.
They both agree among the challenges they still face is achieving greater comfort and familiarity with the different luge tracks around the world.
“In the grand scheme of things,” Forgan said, “we haven’t been a doubles team very long, so there are still tracks we need to work on. When you have only six or seven runs before a World Cup, you have to figure everything out in that short time.”
The hard work is paying off, however, as they get better acquainted with and build confidence on each track.
“One of the great things about the partnership is having someone who was there with you and you can reflect on what happened and how to get better,” Kirkby said. “In singles, you’re on your own. Here, we’re in the sled together.”
“Sophie has a great feeling on the sled,” Forgan said. “It’s great to be able to think through things with her. Along with that, she’s very easygoing, especially when we’re facing adversity. That makes it a lot easier. The partnership, even off the ice, is very important. To be on the same page and constantly working together and communicating helps us get where we want to be.”
Where they want to be includes the 2026 Winter Olympics, where medals will be awarded in women’s doubles luge for the first time.
“We’re very excited women’s doubles was added to the next Olympics, and we see it as a huge step forward in our sport and in sports in general,” Forgan said. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to compete in this category that didn’t even exist a few years ago.”