Natural Luge is a high speed sliding sport practised on tracks which are adapted from existing mountain roads and paths.
To conquer these tracks athletes use a steering rein and require all four limbs to be working in harmony with each other to enable them to manoeuvere around the tight bends. To tackle some corners, breaking is often required which is achieved by using the spikes on the bottom of both shoes and stamping them into the ice.
My first experience of Luge was at a Street Luge Event at RAF Halton in October 2011. Learning the basics of how to steer, break and the components of a sled. From this small insight into the world of Luge, I quickly wanted to learn more and improve.
So in January 2012, when I had the opportunity to attend Ice Camp in Lusen, Italy, I quickly jumped at the chance. Here, I could develop the skills I learnt at street Luge. However transferring them to the ice proved to be a slow and daunting process, nevertheless after a successful run at the end of the week I had officially got the ‘Luge bug’.
I returned to Ice Camp again in 2013 at Lusen. After another two weeks training, I felt happy with the progress I had made. This progress was confirmed when I was told that myself and two other RAF personnel were being put forward for the Federation of International Luge (FIL) training in preparation to compete at the world circuit.
The FIL training week took place October 2013 at Obdach, Austria. Living alongside athletes from Turkey, Croatia and Brazil, an FIL coach helped us develop our technique further and ensured our sleds were prepped and met the regulations ready for the World Cup in 2014.
On the 2nd January, 4 British athletes along with the RAF Coach Flt Lt Dunlop travelled to Seiser Alm in Italy. The first race for the World Cup was a parallel night race, where two tracks run side by side enabling two slides to race head to head. Ahead of the first race nerves had set in and I was glad Flt Lt Dunlop and Sqn Ldr Adamson were there to give support and guidance. After positive training and qualification runs. I was feeling
confident going in my final race runs and was extremely pleased to see that my times continuously improved as my experience grew.
After this race I and two of the other British athletes joined the FIL Group and for the next 3 weeks we lived, trained and travelled with athletes from: Turkey, Ukraine, Brazil, Moldova, Bulgaria, Croatia and Bosnia.
Training for the second race in a Passeier started immediately following a successful competition at Seiser Alm. I was eager to get back on the ice & build on skills I learnt at Seiser Alm. Having the opportunity to learn techniques and skills from coaches from so many nations was a brilliant experience.
After the week of training, I felt well prepared for the weekend’s race. Friday morning I walked the track working with a New Zealand coach confirming the correct lines and breaking points. Pre-race nerves set in again as
I was in the start hut having my sled weighed, measured and its temperature taken to make sure it fitted with all the regulations. First the training run, this helped settle my nerves, then the qualifying run. This was 18 seconds faster than my training run. Saturday morning was colder than the previous day; tensions were high with competitors preparing for the race run. As I sat in the starting gate and the count down from 20 began I thought of everyone watching back home who had believed in me and helped me get this far and how much I wanted to make them proud. With a final run through of the track in my head I pushed off the start my race. As I went through the finish line I was delighted to see I had achieved my fastest time on this track.
The weather in our second week was warmer than it had been which made it difficult to train as the tracks were melting. However we did achieve some training at Latzfons, Italy, which with its tight hairpin corners make it good practise for the following weekend’s race at Umhausen. On Thursday we travelled to Umhausen to prepare for the race and attended the captains meeting. Having spent a day training at Umhausen I had apprehensions about racing there, as it is a really challenging track. So far all the competitions had been night races and although the track is illuminated, for the slider you cannot see any of the spectators, so it really feels like it is just you and your sled against the track and for the duration of your run it is like nothing else in the world matters.
After safely conquering the monster which is the track at Umhausen I was ready to face the next challenge at Olang, Italy During this weeks training the Athletes from Britain spent time at the home of the American and New Zealand teams, taking the opportunity to train together at a track in Latsch, Italy preparing for the Nations Cup, where I achieved 10th position. I was extremely happy with this result as I hadn’t slid at Olang before and this was my best result in the competition.
For the last two years developing and training in the Luge has been exhilarating and exciting. Training has been hard but I have enjoyed every moment of it. Conquering challenges one step at a time has built up my skills and confidence. I am now eager to for the final race in Romania on the 16th/17th of February.