This weekend, boys and girls will be sliding down the streets of the Burlington area on wheeled sleds for a chance to be recruited by USA Luge.
The so-called “slider search” is an official nationwide athlete recruitment tour that introduces luge, the fastest sport on ice, to young athletes ages 9-13. This summer, Burlington is one of eight cities that USA Luge will visit.
“It’s the way we find our future luge athletes,” said USA Luge Coach Fred Zimny, noting that seven of the 10 athletes on the last U.S. Olympic Luge Team got their start in the Slider Search program, including 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin. Pittsfield resident Grace Weinberg, a luger on the junior national team, was also discovered on a slider search. (Read her story here.)
If participants show promise, they will be invited to a four-day screening camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in New York, where they can try luge on ice. Out of the 600 kids Zimny estimates USA Luge will meet during the Slider Search program, about 50 will be invited to Lake Placid. The top athletes from the screening camp are selected for the next year’s development team.
“It’s really open to any kid that wants to come out and try it,” Zimny said. “They might not know that they have good luge skills. At the very least, they’ll get some experience on a luge sled, which most kids don’t have a chance to try. If they have some talent, who knows where it could take them.”
At each clinic, participants learn how to position, steer and stop a luge sled. When they have the basics down, they have several chances to navigate a paved luge course. Finally, program organizers analyze the youngsters’ fitness level with a number of physical tests. Four clinics will be offered between Saturday and Sunday, each lasting between two and three hours.
“Right now, we just want the kids to come out and have some fun,” Zimny said.
The program is free, and interested families can register at usaluge.org under the “Try Luge” tab, or call 800-USA-LUGE for more information.