Utahns named to USA junior luge team

Congratulations to Ty Anderson, Pat Edmunds, Anthony Espinoza, Jake Farquharson, Samantha Carone, and Katy Simi for making the USA Luge Junior National Team.

The following is an article from The Salt Lake Tribune:

Lake Placid, N.Y. • Six young Utah athletes and another with Utah ties were named to USA Luge’s junior nationals teams for the coming year.

Ty Anderson of Alpine and Pat Edmunds and Anthony Espinoza of Park City were named to the Junior National C Team. Park City junior lugers Jake Farquharson, Samantha Carone and Katy Simi will compete on the D Team.

Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., the 2008 Junior World Champion, was named to the junior national team. She took half of last season off to matriculate as a freshman at BYU, but still managed to finish fifth at the 2011 Junior World Championships.

Reigning Junior World Cup Champions and Andrew Sherk, Junior World Cup Medalist Emily Sweeney and 2010-11 Youth World Cup Champion Sukmmer Britcher will lead the team.

Hamlin, Mazdzer win national titles in Lake Placid

Article posted on Universal Sports

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Erin Hamlin and Chris Mazdzer won their second straight national luge championship titles.

Hamlin had the fastest times of 44.883 and 44.698 seconds for a combined 1 minute, 29.581 seconds over the three-quarters of a mile track in Lake Placid, N.Y. Emily Sweeney followed 0.24 seconds behind, and Ashley Walden was third.

Mazdzer had times of 53.018 and 53.273 for a combined finish of 1:46.291. Robby Huerbin was second in 1:46.533. Taylor Morris, returning from an early season hand injury, was third.

The doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall won the gold medal in a combined time of 1:29.567.

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.

Luge: Speaking with Erin Hamlin

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at universalsports.com:

At the 2009 Luge World Championships in Lake Placid, American Erin Hamlin snapped a streak of 99 consecutive races won by German women. In January, she’ll get her chance to defend that crown.

A German woman has won every race since Hamlin’s shocker, including the 2010 Olympics, so a title defense is just as daunting a task. But the 24-year-old is a contender to land on the podium every week, and she checked in with us via email before the season begins in Austria.

The Olympics came at the end of your World Cup season last year. Did you travel afterward?
Yes I did actually. I went to Kauai with a couple of other athletes. It was a short trip because I had to be back in Lake Placid for Nationals. But still worth it! I had never been to Hawaii and now I cannot wait to go back. I will as soon as I can!

How do you typically spend your off seasons?
I generally spend a few weeks at home in Remsen, NY to get away from the athlete/sports world for a little while. I still train, but often in different ways. Mainly just stay active, and then in late April or May I begin training pretty hard. That runs through the entire summer, which is normally spent in Lake Placid, NY. My trainer, Jason Hartman, has been there and we have our start-training facility, so it is the most logical place for me to be.

Is there less pressure going into this season because it’s not an Olympic year?
I would say the atmosphere brings less pressure, but mainly because there is a lot less hype. But since this will be the first World Championships since I won in Lake Placid I definitely feel like I have to perform at a level that would represent that. With our completely new program (coaches, etc.) it is easy to push that aside, though, and just be excited to race and see what this new chapter will offer.

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Luge made fast changes after tragedy

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at boston.com:

Even before the recent British Columbia coroner’s report concluded that the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a crash on the Olympic run in Vancouver was accidental, the international federation was taking steps to make the sport safer for next winter’s World Cups and global championships.

The changes include lower starting lines, higher walls, and less severe curves as well as revised qualifying standards.

Though the 21-year-old slider’s father was furious that the report found that his son’s “relative lack of experience’’ was a factor in his fatal crash on a training run, it was clear that Kumaritashvili, who was ranked 44th in the world, had trouble handling the Whistler track dubbed the “Elevator Shaft,’’ where speeds exceeded 90 miles per hour.

Besides reducing the velocity to 83 m.p.h. for the Sochi track in 2014 and adding more training time, the luge federation also will perform the comprehensive safety audit the coroner recommended.

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RJ Shannon Named Utah Olympic Park Track Manager

Congratulations to RJ Shannon. The Utah Athletic Foundation announced Thursday, September 30, 2010 that Shannon is now the Utah Olympic Park Track Manager.

Prior to 2003 when Shannon began his career at the Utah Olympic Park on the Track Crew, he was the Operation and Logistic Supervisor with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee at the Medals Plaza in Salt Lake City from 2000 to 2002.

Since joining the Utah Olympic Park, Shannon’s experience, knowledge and skill have been displayed in all areas of Track operations. His lead and supervisor roles have included Track Crew, Control Tower and the Comet Bobsled Public Ride Program. Shannon has also acted as Chief of Track for numerous regional, national and international Bobsled, Skeleton and Luge events. In organizing these Track events, he has developed important relationships with the international sports federations, FIBT(Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing) and FIL (International Luge Federation).

“We are fortunate to have an experienced leader of our Track Crew team able to take on the responsibilities of Track Manager,” said Colin Hilton, CEO of the Utah Athletic Foundation. “RJ is an asset to our organization and capable of upholding the high standards in all areas of our Track operations.”

Shannon is a committed and respected member of the Utah Olympic Park team. The Utah Athletic Foundation looks forward to working with him as the Utah Olympic Park continues its endeavors to support the development of track sports and in offering quality sports programs.

Study: Olympic Curlers More Likely Than Luge Racers to Be Hurt

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at wsj.com:

You could probably expect that when the world’s best bobsledders, skiers, figure skaters and other winter Olympic athletes gather to compete, some end up getting hurt. Exactly how often that happens, however, hasn’t been well studied.

A research project undertaken at the Vancouver Games surveyed National Olympic Committee head doctors to come up with some stats, finding that at least 11% of athletes were injured and 7% fell ill during the Olympics. The collected data cover 2,567 athletes from the 82 participating committees and are published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The authors say a 10% injury rate was seen at the 2008 Beijing Games, but that there is much less information available on injury risk for Olympic winter sports. (So we don’t know whether these rates are higher or lower than at previous Winter Games.)

As you could probably tell from the on-camera mishap rate during the Games, bobsled, ice hockey, short-track speed skating, freestyle skiing and snowboard cross had the highest rates of injury — as high as 35% for snowboard cross.

And would you believe a larger proportion of curling competitors (4%) than luge racers (2%) were injured? (That stat, of course, belies the fact that a luge competitor from Georgia died during a training run and may underestimate actual risk, the authors say.) Among the curlers, injuries were to the lower back, wrist, finger and thigh, and included strains, tendon problems and muscle spasms.

Click here to read the entire article.

David Dinger, UOP Track Manager, Passes Away at 45

The Utah Olympic Park and the bobsled, skeleton and luge community have lost a valuable member of its family on August 25 when David Dinger, age 45, passed away at his home in Park City after battling renal cell carcinoma since last October.

Dinger, a devoted father to Jack, 13 and Joe, 10, always had an interest in international sports and was a great advocate of sport. He engaged to the fullest by participating as well as being a spectator. He became a fan of Indy Car Racing at age 12. The one word that is consistently used when it comes to Dinger is “passion.” His enthusiasm for life was inspiring and infectious. He loved to learn and loved to share.

His passion for skiing prompted him to move from California to Park City in 1992. He worked winters as Ski Patrol at Park City Mountain Resort and summers at Park Meadows Country Club. Attending “Greens-keeper School” to learn the science of irrigation would later prove to be instrumental in his knowledge of icing the track.

He became involved in sliding sports after receiving a Learn-to-Luge clinic for a birthday gift in December 2001. He immediately got hooked on the sport of luge which lead to his interest in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. He landed a job working on the track and was positioned at “curve 12” for the duration of sliding events. Soon after the Games, he applied for the Track Manager position and was accepted based on his experience that included his career in Public Relations while he lived in California. He dedicated himself to sliding sports, gaining a reputation worldwide of being an “Icemeister” and setting the bar for other tracks around the world.

“David has been our inspirational leader of the Olympic Park track. He had a special ability to bring out the best in his staff, the athletes, and a family of international officials who admired and respected his vision and leadership. It will be an honor and privilege for us to continue operating the track and developing athletes in a way that David worked so hard to see happen,” said Colin Hilton, President of Utah Athletic Foundation.

Respected by his team on the UOP track, athletes around the world and all those in the sport community, Dinger was recognized as a leader in the development of the bobsled, skeleton and luge sports. track. RJ Shannon of UOP said, “Dave was set apart by his passion for athletes. His legacy is yet to be fully realized as it lives on in the hopes and dreams of the athletes he touched.”

The camaraderie on the track, which Dinger considered his second home, was that of close family and friends. Carl Reopke, fellow luge slider and “voice of the track”, finally remembers David routinely saying “See you at the bottom”.

His remarkable journey to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games where he worked on the track, was inspiring and prompted international media interest. In an interview with CTV while in Vancouver, Dinger said he was concerned about being able to perform, but when he arrived at the track, he thought that maybe it was the excitement that made him feel his old self. After the Gold Medal victory of the USA 4-Man Bobsled Team, bobsled pilot, Steve Holcomb said, “David, this medal is as much yours as it is mine. Night Train would not be what it is today without you”.

David worked tirelessly, in health and during his battle with cancer, to promote the sliding track sports at Utah Olympic Park as a facility where sliding enthusiasts and serious competitors alike could feed their passion for these sports. He had requested before his death that donations be taken in his name to fulfill the purpose and mission stated above, and specifically to purchase much needed equipment so the track and the sliding sports could continue to grow.

The David Dinger Developmental Sliding Foundation, found at http://www.DavidDingerFoundation.org, was formed shortly after David’s death as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Foundation’s purpose is to encourage and promote the winter sliding sports of bobsled, skeleton and luge at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah though education, outreach and equipment. The Foundation will focus initially on purchasing equipment to support participation in the sports and training by Olympians. All donations are tax deductible.

His courage, strength and will was an example to all. His warm smile and friendship will be missed.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the David Dinger Developmental Sliding Foundation at http://www.DavidDingerFoundation.org.

NY youth test out the luge

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at uticaod.com:

In August 2009, Hannah Miller tried luge for the first time.

A year later, Miller is coaching other first-timers.

The Rome teenager was one of three area athletes at the USA Luge Slider Search in Utica on Saturday who advanced from slider search program to developmental luge athletes.

Miller, Cold Brook’s Katie Shelhamer and Deansboro’s Marissa Cornelius got on a wheeled sled for the first time 363 days ago. Three months later, the girls were sliding on the iced track in Lake Placid. In the spring, Miller, Shelhamer and Cornelius found out they made the luge development team – the lowest rung on the USA Luge ladder, and the same place where Erin Hamlin got her start more than a decade ago.

Miller, Shelhamer and Cornelius celebrated their “luge-iversary” – as Cornelius called it – with cake and coaching this year’s slider search athletes in the sport’s basics.

“It feels so weird, because I was here last year and I was so intimidated by everyone coaching and now I’m coaching,” Miller said.

Twenty young athletes attended two Saturday sessions on Cornelia Street.

Two additional clinics were scheduled today, but were cancelled because of a weather forecast of day-long rain, a USA Luge official said.

“It looks like 100 percent it’s going to rain; rain in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon,” USA Luge team manager Fred Zimny said.

USA Luge will host another slider search in Oneida County next month. The organization’s fifth and final stop for 2010 will be in Sherrill on Sept. 25-26.

Saturday’s turnout in Utica was down from 2009, the first slider search in the area. Last year 60 youths turned out for four sessions, two on both Saturday and Sunday. Oneida County Youth Bureau director Bob Roth was at a loss to explain the decline in numbers, especially given that USA Luge waived the $15 registration fee this year.

Roth said he understood the cancellation of today’s clinics with the threat of bad weather, though two more sessions might have brought the attendance on par with last year.

“With the amount of exposure, I’d have thought we’d have more participation,” Roth said. “And with the success of those three young ladies – Hannah Miller, Katie Shelhamer and Marissa Cornelius.”

Not to mention Hamlin. A two-time Olympian and the reigning women’s World Champion, Hamlin was instrumental in bringing the slider search to the area.
She was at the top of the Cornelia Street hill for the morning clinic coaching right along with the developmental sliders and Zimny.

“Don’t panic right away if you go toward the hay bales,” Hamlin told a line of sliders, who waited for their turn. “Remember what you have to do to go the other way.”

The lessons appeared to come easily for Shannon and Daniel Knapp, of Marcy. The sister and brother showed good control on the sleds, especially when they had to navigate a slalom course.

“I try to be the track and steer the way it wanted to go,” 11-year-old Daniel said.

Hamlin returned to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid several weeks ago to prepare for the 2010-11 World Cup season. She said even after only a year, Miller, Shelhamer and Cornelius have a good enough grasp of the sport to coach. They’ve been through screening camps and training in Lake Placid including sliding on the Mt. Van Hoevenberg track.

Click here to read the entire article.

Clukey giving back to her community

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at onlinesentinel.com:

After a little down time this past spring, Julia Clukey is ready to jump into her luge training for the upcoming World Cup season, and down the road, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

But first, the 25-year-old from Augusta wanted to do something for her home state.

“I’m pretty passionate about the community I grew up in, and I wanted to reconnect,” Clukey said, minutes before speaking to Gardiner Area High School athletes at their fall sports meeting.

Clukey’s speech was sponsored by the Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association, and was the first of a series of talks Clukey will give at high schools around the state. Clukey will speak in Sanford tonight and at Cony on Aug. 26th. An appearance at Maranacook is in the works, Nick Alberding, who helped organize Clukey’s speech for the Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association, said.

Clukey’s appearance included a short video, highlighting her training regimen and competition at the Olympics last February in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“She’s obviously a great role model,” Alberding said. “We’re community members and parents and committed to tell young people, stay away from alcohol. We’ll wait for you business.”

While Clukey never specifically mentioned alcohol in her short speech, she stressed to the Gardiner students to make good choices in their lives.

“My life has been about making decisions,” Clukey said. “Make those decisions that will help you get to where you want to be.”

After the Olympics, Clukey took some time off to rest a neck injury and take stock of her life.

“I was dealing with a lot of health issues. Mentally, did I want to continue? I’m 25 now, I have other things I want to do in life,” Clukey said. “I realized I wanted to continue training. It took about a month to feel like an athlete again.”

The post-Olympic year is kind of a relaxed year, Clukey said, and she spent the summer training at home in Augusta. She’ll return to Lake Placid, N.Y. in September to train with the national team.

Click here to read the entire article.