Sunday, August 14 2022

At left, U.S. luge athletes Hunter Harris, Matthew Greiner, Zack DiGregorio, Tucker West, Emily Sweeney, Ashley Farquharson, Chevonne Forgan and Jonny Gustafson pose for a photo during Olympic and Paralympic Day at Mount Van Hoevenberg on June 23. (News Photo – Parker O’Brien)

LAKE PLACID – It would be strange to see some of your favorite Olympians waiting for you in a restaurant, but in Lake Placid it could happen.

It’s been nearly five months since the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and for the many American luge athletes living in or around Lake Placid, that means it’s the offseason.

For most people, an offseason would imply a vacation or some sort of break, but for American luge athletes, that’s not always the case.

“Sport is a full-time job for us now,” said three-time Olympian Tucker West. “We have dryland training and then we also have a start ramp on Church Street in town. We will start almost every day and then we will train in the gym almost every day.

Luge athletes spend the majority of their time training – cardio, abdominal and tempo workouts – at the USA Olympic and Paralympic Training Center and working on their start at the USA Luge Start House.

“We have a great facility in town at the Luge Training Center,” Two-time Olympian and Saranac Lake native Emily Sweeney. “We have ice on which we can practice our starts and that is crucial for us when we come back to the World Cup and on tour. It’s a lot of weightlifting, getting in shape, preparing for the season and practicing our starts.

West said it’s a relatively large time commitment. He estimated that training takes about 20-30 hours a week and the rest is enjoying the city.

While training takes up a good chunk of your time, every athlete chooses that bit of time off differently.

“For me, I work at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery a few days a week,” 2022 Olympian and Massena native Jonny Gustafson said. “But depending on the athlete – work, school, just having some playing time as well – doing whatever we can to keep ourselves busy and keep some practice.”

Gustafson is not alone. According to West, many luge athletes work various jobs during the offseason.

“A lot of people are servers just to support their training and competition,” West says.

“I worked last summer” said 2022 Olympian Zack DiGregorio. “This summer, I am not working. I think everyone kind of grew up and had jobs in town, which was fun.

2018 Olympic silver medalist and Saranac Lake native Chris Mazdzer worked as a bartender after competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics, according to an article in Wealthsimple magazine.

“Everyone has their own things they have to fit into” Sweeney said. “For me too, we usually travel from late September to late February, so that’s a lot of time to try to fit in with your family.

“I think work-life balance is that elusive thing that everyone tries to get a little bit of, in the summer,” she added.


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