USA Luge has called off its remaining two seeding races and national championships because of warm weather, adding difficulty to the process of picking the sliders who will be eligible for spots on the team competing at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The seeding races, which were to continue this weekend in Lake Placid, New York, decide who opens the season on USA Luge’s World Cup team.
Officials are still deciding how to proceed. Simply delaying the races was not an option because the Americans are headed to South Korea for training on the Olympic track early next month, and their sleds need to be shipped there.
The Americans already have had one seeding race, and another was canceled because a windstorm blew sand into the track at Calgary, Alberta — creating a situation where sleds could have been damaged on the gritty surface.
And now, there’s not enough ice on which to slide.
“Having this gap (in training) is not ideal,” women’s slider Erin Hamlin said. “It’s a bummer that going into the training in Korea we have a bit of a hiatus and we’re off the sled for a while, but I think most of us will handle it fine.”
The Americans have gotten some preseason training in on three tracks in Norway and Canada, plus a bit of work in at Lake Placid earlier this week. But a warm and often rainy fall has thwarted the ability to keep the Mount Van Hoevenberg track covered in ice, which is not only throwing off luge plans but also created headaches for the U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams as they went through team trials earlier this month.
Here’s how peculiar this situation is: There were nights in July that were colder in Lake Placid than Tuesday night was. Conditions should become more seasonable next week, which will help the icemakers who must get the track ready for the first World Cup bobsled and skeleton races of the season on Nov. 9.
But by then, the luge team will be in South Korea, preparing for the Winter Olympics.
“We’re not going to let the canceled training this week hold us back in any way, shape or form,” doubles luger Matt Mortensen said.
Some USA Luge team members estimated that they’ve gotten in 80 to 90 runs this season around the world, which is relatively close to what they’ve stockpiled in past preseason training periods. Teams in Europe have encountered similar issues with weather as well.
The unplanned break does come with some positives, women’s slider Summer Britcher said.
“Sliding does take a huge toll on your body,” Britcher said. “To have this week off to kind of recover and regroup before going to the Olympic track in Pyeongchang might give us a little bit of an edge when we actually get on ice there.”