FIL removes Lake Placid World Cup races slated for Dec. 2021

by Sandy Caligiore

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The International Luge Federation (FIL) has notified the United States that the inability of Russia and Georgia to secure visa appointments has led the FIL to remove the Eberspacher World Cup events in Lake Placid on Dec. 4-5.

Lake Placid will be replaced by the 2014 Olympic site in Sochi, Russia.

The FIL imposed an Aug. 11 deadline for these appointments to confirm that the two teams would have the necessary visas to travel to the United States at year’s end, but a combination of the coronavirus and international relations prevented the deadline from being met.

“The FIL was requiring a letter from USA Luge, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee or the State Department guaranteeing visa appointments for the Russian and Georgian teams by an imposed deadline of Aug. 10,” said Jim Leahy, USA Luge CEO. “During COVID, most American embassies around the world closed and are now just beginning to reopen. The current protocol at the embassies with regard to appointments for visas is to prioritize those living in that country to apply for an appointment. With the U.S. Embassy in Russia closed due to political reasons, we tried through multiple channels over several weeks to get the Russians appointments at the American embassies in Latvia, Italy and Germany, but those efforts were fruitless as they are not residents of those countries. We also tried the Ukraine, but due to political reasons there, that U.S. embassy was not even an option for the Russians. The Georgians had the option in the Ukraine, but again since they are not residents, no appointment was possible by the FIL deadline. Our organization exhausted every possibility right up to the deadline.”

From the FIL perspective, there were also financial ramifications to the tune of over $2 million. That was the cost of providing the teams charter air service from Germany to Beijing to Vancouver to Plattsburgh, N.Y. to Germany to cover the transportation needs over the first five World Cup stops of the season. The deadline with the charter service was Aug. 11 at which time a 50 percent deposit ($1 million) from the FIL was required. 

This is the second consecutive season that extenuating circumstances have kept the World Cup tour from Lake Placid. The pandemic was the root cause in late 2020, leading to a 2020-2021 racing schedule that was held mostly in Germany, and saw the U.S. squad participate in just half the season.

“Now it’s the pandemic and other issues, all non-athletic, that will prevent our athletes from having a home race in front of their families, friends and fans,” continued Leahy. “It also negatively impacts our personal engagement with team sponsors and suppliers who would attend, may possibly keep us off NBC, eliminates key media coverage we would receive just two months prior to Beijing, and ultimately, does nothing to help grow the sport of luge in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, after spending the spring and summer in their new refrigerated start facility in Lake Placid, U.S. national team athletes and coaches are set to begin fall sliding in late September in Sochi, followed by a camp on the 1994 Olympic course in Lillehammer. From there, they will return home and hit the ice in Lake Placid from Oct. 13-17, with an ensuing trip to Park City, Utah and the 2002 Olympic run starting Oct. 20.

After a short break at the end of the month, the team will travel to Beijing and spend the first three weeks of November at the Yanqing Sliding Centre where they will finally sample February’s Olympic track. The 2021-2022 World Cup season begins there Nov. 20-21.

USA Luge will spend all of November and most of December training and racing overseas.

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