Since 2006, youth luge athletes who have participated in the USA Luge/Youth Winter Sports Alliance after-school program have won 41 international junior World Cup and World Championship circuit medals, according to program director Jon Owen.
A member of the 1988 USA Luge squad at the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, Owen figured the best way to find the next cream of the crop would be to start an after-school program for kids in the 5th, 6th and 7th grades.
With the annual fall camp starting Oct. 26, the registration deadline is Friday, Oct. 12. It is geared mainly for young Park City and Summit County athletes, but Owen said anyone interested in participating in the three-week camp is invited. Last year, Owen had a slider from Wasatch County, and some from the Salt Lake Valley as far away as Herriman.
"Last year, the program was full and we went right to capacity, but not beyond," Owen said. "I'm not going to turn anyone away who wants to participate in the program."
For three consecutive Fridays starting Oct. 26, at the Utah Olympic Park, the camp will commence at 2 p.m., and the athletes will slide from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
"It's designed for beginners and it's the same group that comes back three weeks in a row, so they can see their progression of their skills and get a sense of what it's about to show up for training repeatedly," Owen explained. "It's a much more in-depth view of the sport.
"We can start kids as young as 8 and go as old as 14, but to keep a tighter age range -- it really keeps it as a tight program. The kids really like that and it's amazing to see these kids create a team atmosphere even within just three sessions."
All athletes start at curve 12 at the UOP, the lowest point available on the track to run sleds. From there, the athletes will take their first few runs on the last four curves (bottom fourth) of the track. As athletes progress and become more comfortable, they will move up the track to the "Tourist Start" (one curve and straightaway higher).
"It's just to get kids out to see if they like it," Owen said. "We have had some kids come out and have said, 'Mom and Dad talked me into this,' and a decade later they're still racing and racing in World Cups in Europe."
Some notable sliders currently on international racing circuits who have attended Owen's USA Luge camp include Parkites Pat Edmunds and Anthony Espinoza and Alpine's Ty Andersen. Edmunds and Andersen won gold at the inaugural Youth Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in January 2012. Preston Griffall, a member of the luge team at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, was also under Owen's tutelage at one point.
For questions or to get a registration packet call Jon Owen at the USA Luge Park City office, 435-647-3800 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .