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For sliders, there's always an element of danger

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  February 12, 2010 08:25 AM

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Luger Megan Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., will provide insight and commentary in occasional blog posts for Boston.com throughout the Winter Olympics.


Probably one of the top 5 questions asked of a slider is “What’s the most dangerous part of your sport?”

That’s a really, really hard question to answer because there are so many factors of luge that can be considered dangerous to someone who has never tried it.

To be quite honest, most injuries that occur on our team happen off the track. It’s during a soccer game where we all play like professionals minus the skills. It’s the extra 10 feet on a cliff that we climb before we jump off or the fact that I thinking going bungee jumping in the winter on my birthday is going to be FANTASTIC!

I’m convinced there’s a MAJOR lack of neurological firing when it comes to a fear factor because for some reason we push the edge in everything we do.

But there are two instances that I’ve become aware of that honestly, scare me to death. The first I noticed in Park City while walking up the track early one morning. It had just snowed and underneath that snow was black ice. I can understand slipping down the mountain, but up? It was the fear of the unknown that one wrong step and I could be flat on my face that freaked me out.

The second instance is also the fear of the unknown, and today’s training in Whistler made that apparent. No matter how many mind runs are completed, no matter how many ACTUAL runs I have on a track or how confident of a slider I am there is a moment at the start handles after the track is cleared where I surrender myself to the unknown.

This mainly applies to the first run on the track, but sometimes there’s a lack of mental stability where my fear creeps in and I just have to reiterate to myself that it’s nothing new. But that first run, that first pull on the handles and the release where I can feel the sled speeding down the start ramp, all I think to myself is “Well! Here we go! There’s no turning back now!”

My Mom applies a lot of her business wisdom into our sports psychology/venting sessions and one trend that she keeps pushing upon me (and yes, Mom, I do actually listen!) is to “Keep it simple, stupid.” So that’s what I have to break it down to. All I’m really doing is a form of glorified sledding; there’s nothing but the ice, my sled, and me. There’s nothing special about that.

I’ve had more runs this year in Whistler than I took before my races in Calgary, Canada or Igls, Austria or Winterberg, Germany … so I’ve just got to break it down. Keep my head on straight, and know that my moment of despair has passed with two race-training runs down, four more to go, and then it’s the big day! 

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