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GIVING BACK: USA Luge seeks funds to double training runs for juniors

August 17, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - For luge, athletes may train for a couple of hours at the ice track, but only about seven minutes is actually spent sliding. In a competition where medals are won and lost by hundredths of a second, time matters.

"Even tracks that have been around forever are still new to the kids," said Larry Dolan, assistant coach for the USA Luge Junior National Team. "They get such little time on practice runs, so we also train them to visualize new courses and angles, so they can competently handle a variety of tracks."

The USA Luge Junior National Team is currently taking donations to fund runs for its training season. Normally, the team does about 200 runs a season, but this year they're looking to double that number and train for four more weeks. It'll cost nearly $50,000.

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North Country local and 1998 Nagano, Japan, Olympic slider Dolan has worked in development with USA Luge since 2013. In that time, there's always been a push for more runs, he said. While the United States Olympic Committee provides funds for domestic training, it doesn't cover all of the international costs.

"It can sometimes be tricky for the junior national team because you need to train internationally on the tracks where you're going to race," Dolan said. "It can be more expensive because you have to go there and you have to pay per run. During race weeks, you only get a certain number of runs, which is typically far below what we what we need to be competitive. The run volume is going to equal better results in the end."

The team consists of 14 junior athletes, four of which are on doubles teams, and a run normally costs between 20 and 30 euros. That's roughly $29. So with 12 sleds running seven times each, a day of training cost about $2,100.

The sliding season runs from October to March.

"It's a long season," he said. "We do periodic breaks, so the kids don't lose their minds, and the staff, [too]. We want to hit that volume so that they can broaden their experience."

In that time, the team will train and compete in Park City, Utah, Canada, Norway, Latvia and other European countries. Dolan said there isn't much time for relaxing.

"It's not a vacation," he said. "They typically have schoolwork to do in a day. They have physical training and sliding on the track. That's at least one if not two sessions, and we'll be shooting for seven runs a day. All that fills the day, but, you know, we try to work something in, like, a travel day or on a day off where they get to spend some time in the nearby city. One of the tracks is close to Dresden [Germany]. Another is very close to Innsbruck [Austria], so you have some opportunities to experience a little bit of the culture."

The junior national team often practices on the track at Mount Van Hoevenberg, but just because someone is an expert in Lake Placid doesn't mean they're ready to compete on the track in Lillehammer, Norway. It takes variation to get on the level of the Germans, Dolan said.

"Our results have typically shown that at the World Cup level we have successful World Cups in Lake Placid and Park City," he said, "but we struggle to be as successful on tracks in the rest of the world. What we really want to try to do is make sure that we get that experience abroad. You know, to give it a juxtaposition, before we had Park City, and when we had only the old Lake Placid track, we actually were a little more competitive on the international tracks because we just had to spend more time on the road."

After Saranac Laker Chris Mazdzer took home the silver medal, the first men's singles luge medal in U.S. history, at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, Dolan said it made a world of a difference for his youth team. He'd like to see that level of athleticism translate into the younger sliders.

"Increased runs leads to better results immediately," he said. "For me, as a coach, it's a higher goal. I'd love to see some podiums. I don't think it's unattainable, but it is a bit of a stretch. The kids learn quick so as soon as they are given the opportunity to get these runs and learn, we'll see how fast it translates into results."



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