TeamUSA.org: Luge 2010-11 Preview

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at TeamUSA.org:

Christian Niccum knows it’s coming. On Thursday night, he’ll make the call and his mother will remind him: This is another Thanksgiving when he’s not at home.

Instead, Niccum and his USA Luge teammates will be celebrating Thanksgiving at their hotel in Igls, Austria, where they are preparing for the first World Cup event of the season.

“I’ve missed 10 (Thanksgivings), and I’m 22 years old,” said Chris Mazdzer, who finished 13th in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

“I stopped counting,” quipped Niccum, who at 32 with two Olympic Winter Games under his belt is the new elder statesman of the group.

But for elite luge competitors, it’s all just part of the game.

The World Cup this weekend in Igls, which is just outside Innsbruck, is the first of nine World Cup events that run through February. It’s also the beginning of a new quadrennium, or the start of the long road to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games — a destination this group of athletes hope to reach.

“When I was (at the Olympics in Vancouver) I realized that you’re not there to compete, you’re really there to win,” Mazdzer said. “I was just so happy to be at the Olympics and just tried to perform my best, but now it’s like I want to take these next four years to be even better for the next Games.”

Mazdzer figures to lead the U.S. men this season, a group that also features two-time Olympian Bengt Walden (he competed for Sweden in 2002) as well as up-and-comers Trent Matheson and Joe Mortensen. Tony Benshoof, whose eighth-place finish in Vancouver was the top of any U.S. singles races, has taken a leave of absence from the team as he cares for his ailing mother.

On the women’s side, 2009 world champion Erin Hamlin, 24, barely took a break after the Winter Games and comes into this season with approximately 10 additional pounds of muscle, which she hopes will help her against competitors who are still about 10 pounds heavier than her.

“As a whole I feel really good and I had really good training this fall, so hopefully things continue in the same direction they were going last year,” said Hamlin, who finished 16th in Vancouver.

Click here to read the entire article.

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