A family affair: Arndts slide together
Brittney and Jesse Arndt have both won titles in their divisions
Parkite Brittney Arndt, a USA Luge team member, has a simple routine when she’s on the road in Europe for much of her World Cup tours. After a race, she’ll give her parents, who have usually woken up in the middle of the night in order to watch their daughter race, a call to talk things over.
Her mother, Holly, is typically first on the phone, offering congratulations to Brittney and, for the most past, providing the type of support one would expect from a parent.
Then, another voice — a critical one — takes over the call.
“It’s funny,” Brittney said. “They’ll call me afterwards. My mom will say, ‘Oh, your run looked really good! And then my dad will just say, ‘I saw you touch your foot in this curve.’”
Brittney’s dad, Jesse, is just as supportive as his wife, but he also knows a thing or two about the sport of luge. Just last weekend, he was crowned the Norton Masters National champion in luge at the Utah Olympic Park. So when he watches his daughter race, there are things he can point out that might go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
“With my dad, even if he’s never seen the track, I can explain to him curves and my runs in much more detail,” Brittney said. “It’s cool. He knows exactly what I’m talking about.”
On the surface, Brittney and Jesse’s relationship looks like a classic father-teach-daughter scenario: one in which the daughter followed the father’s footsteps. But in actuality, it’s the opposite.
Growing up in the Lake Placid area, Jesse is no stranger to the sport. He remembers times as a child when he would visit Mt. Van Hoevenberg, home of the only other Olympic-sized luge track in America. Though he wouldn’t actually slide, he vividly recalls watching others do it while walking up and down the track.
“I always thought this was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Jesse said. “How does anyone even do this?”
But he never acted on his curiosity as a child. He eventually went on with his life without luge and ended up settling down in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. He married his now wife and ended up having two kids: Spencer, 21, and Brittney, who is now 18.
It seemed Jesse’s fascination with luge had taken a backseat, but then the family moved to Park City. Obviously a winter sports town, there were many sports that piqued the interest of his kids, but it was luge that caught Brittney’s eye.
She started taking after-school sliding lessons through the Wasatch Luge Club and she was a natural. Even though she was behind a few years compared to the other kids, Brittney quickly rose the ranks to where she is today: the two-time defending USA Luge Junior Female Athlete of the Year. She even has aspirations to qualify for the senior national team this fall and, if all goes right, crack the Olympic team for the 2018 Winter Games.
As Brittney has risen through the ranks, Jesse couldn’t stand idly by.
“When we moved to Park City and I tried it out, I absolutely loved it,” Brittney said. “After my dad came to my races and training sessions and just saw how much fun I was having, he picked it up. He loved it.”
Jesse finally gave the sport a try, decades after watching sliders at the Lake Placid track as a child.
“I remember the first time I [went down a luge track], it was everything I expected it to be, and more,” Jesse said.
He has since participated in sessions up at Utah Olympic Park and has competed in a number of Masters events, capped by his title last weekend.
Though Brittney is on the road a lot, due to the demanding schedule required of a national luge athlete, she was home in December for a brief holiday break. During this time, she went up to Utah Olympic Park to watch her father go through some training runs. She couldn’t help but be critical, in a positive way, just like Jesse is with her.
“He was having problems [at this training session],” Brittney said. “We all have problems on the track. I went over and watched his run and was like, ‘Ah, this is such an easy fix.’ But he’s not as advanced or experienced, so I sprinted up to the finish block and told him. Of course, the next run, he did it and it was awesome.”
Already close, Brittney and Jesse say this sport has brought them together in a way that they didn’t know existed.
“I think it adds a different dynamic that we didn’t have before,” Jesse said. “It’s a really great way to connect and it’s pretty cool.”
With the help and support of the other, the two are tearing up their respective fields. Brittney is currently nursing a fractured patella injury, but, if all goes right, she’s aiming to be back as soon as this weekend for the senior national seeding races.
Whether she’s hurt or she’s at the top of her game, though, her father will always be there
“When I’m down with an injury like I am right now, he’s just as supportive as he is when I’m on the track,” Brittney said.
Maybe that’s because Jesse wasn’t sure he’d find himself on a sliding track, but thanks to Brittney, he’s found a new motivation. The two never slide together at the same time, but Jesse always carries his daughter with him on the track.
“You look at your kids and you want to be an inspiration to them,” Jesse said. But sometimes, you want to make them proud. … That’s what’s really cool about going out there and sliding. I get to the handles and Brittney is the first thing that I think about before I go down.”
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