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Young, local athletes get rare opportunity through USA Luge

PLATTSBURGH - USA Luge has been touring the country for nearly 25 years, looking for young athletes who may qualify for the USA Luge Junior Development Team. This year, they made their way to Plattsburgh.

On Sept. 19-20, Senior National Team manager Fred Zimny worked with youngsters from ages 11-14, testing their physical skills, as well as their abilities on a wheel-equipped luge sled.

The Verizon-USA Luge Slider Search is a grassroots program that aims to "identify, train and qualify young athletes for the USA Luge Junior Development Team," according to their media guide.

The slider search has introduced luge to more than 19,000 athletes since 1985, and 90 percent of the athletes on the USA Luge Team got their start this way.

Zimny explained they search for athletes at a young age because it often takes eight to 10 years for them to develop their skills to perform competitive internationally.

"We get them started at 11 years old so that by the time they're 20, they've got the skills to go out and compete on the world cup circuit and be successful," he said.

This year, Zimny decided to search Plattsburgh for young athletes.

"In the last couple years we've decided we've been going out to California and Washington state, why not stay where the venue is," Zimny explained. "There's this beautiful track in Lake Placid and we've certainly got a decent talent of athletes, so why not focus a little more in the region?"

During the session, members of the USA Luge Team demonstrated how to use the wheel-equipped luge sled, going down a closed course at Clinton Community College, where the session took place.

"We teach them position and steering and stopping and they take several runs down the hill," Zimny said. "We observe their position and their control and how much they improve over six or eight runs."

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