USA Luge junior and youth athletes eye return to racing
by Sandy Caligiore
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – While their older teammates get ready to qualify and compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics in just over three months, the core group of future USA Luge Olympic teams is preparing for the upcoming Junior World Cup and Junior World Championships with thoughts of their own Olympic berths in 2026.
A year ago, the younger generation of United States luge athletes was relegated to training in Lake Placid all season. This was a result of the restrictions dictated by the pandemic, among them, the cancellation of the entire international junior schedule, and the International Luge Federation’s decision to put all of its efforts in executing a World Cup and World Championship season in a bubble.
It should be noted that as the COVID saga has moved beyond testing and into higher stages of vaccination, the entire U.S. organization was among the first in the sport to comply with all CDC and New York State recommendations going back some 18 months.
“I was calling last season the longest preseason in the history of luge,” quipped Pat Anderson, Junior National Team Head Coach and a two-time junior world champion. “But that’s over now and it’s time for us to go to work.”
If there was any benefit to last year’s lockdown, it afforded the Junior National Team coaching staff the time to upgrade equipment through team workshop partners including Norton/Saint-Gobain, Dow and Fibre Glast.
After a summer and fall working on start technique in the team’s expanded and upgraded refrigerated facility and physical training at the USOPC Training Center in Lake Placid, the juniors have been on ice the past two weeks in Lake Placid and Park City, Utah.
“Sliding has been great here in Park City,” continued Anderson, whose team continues on the 2002 Olympic course this week. “It’s been important for us to get on another track, different from Lake Placid, prior to going to Europe and learning the tracks over there.”
In early November, the team departs for Europe and begins the countdown to the start of racing next month. The Junior World Cup openers are slated for the 1992 Olympic site in LaPlagne, France.
The U.S. juniors will compete in all disciplines, including women’s doubles with two sleds ready to race. The hope is that this discipline will be added to the 2026 Olympic program.
The 2021-2022 season’s highlight will be the concluding event – the Junior World Championships, Jan. 28-29 in Winterberg, Germany.
If there is a second noteworthy point to the season, it is the re-emergence of the track in Bludenz, Austria, site of the final Junior World Cup. A mainstay in luge several generations ago, the track fell into disrepair but recently has been rebuilt and ready to host the younger competitors. Test runs in all three sliding sports were held last February. The artificial track measures 700 meters in length with six curves.
The Junior and Youth World Cup schedule is as follows:
Races 1 and 2: Dec. 2-4 in LaPlagne, France
Race 3: Dec. 10-11 in Innsbruck/Igls, Austria
Races 4 and 5: Dec. 17-19 in Oberhof, Germany
Race 6: Jan. 15-16 in Bludenz, Austria
The Junior World Championships (no youth division): Jan. 28-29 in Winterberg, Germany