Americans have good showing at UOP
Monday and Tuesday were busy days for several young USA luge athletes. Taking part in the Junior Luge World Cup event at the Utah Olympic Park, the Americans had several ups and downs during the competitions, ultimately coming away with two medals.
For many of the Team USA athletes, this was their first taste of international competition. Jon Owen of USA Luge said he thought the team had a chance to do a little bit better, especially on home ice, but added that he’s pleased with the results.
"That’s racing," he said. "You always go in with high expectations and sometimes it doesn’t work out. But it still wasn’t a bad week."
The two American medals one silver and one bronze — a silver by Elijah Pedriani in the Youth A Men competition and a bronze in the team competition. The team competition features a female slider, a male slider and a doubles team racing in succession to try to cross the finish line in the fastest time. Pedriani was the male slider for the bronze-medal-winning team. Raychel Germaine was the female representative, with Justin Krewson and Tristan Jeskanen making up the doubles team.
Owen said the team competition medal shows Americans are on the right track when it comes to developing young luge athletes.
"Team competition judges the depth of a program," he said. "While in any one category, we may not have done as well as we’d have liked, as a program, it’s still looking pretty solid."
The Americans lost to first-place Russia and second-place Germany in the team competition. Owen said he wasn’t surprised to see those two countries performing well.
"The Germans are always strong, and they were here, too," he said. "I knew the Russians would do well because they’re still coming off a lot of programming money and stuff from Sochi and whatnot. They were definitely strong."
But, he added, it was nice to see where Team USA stacks up against some of the best programs in the world.
"As far as our side goes, we had a lot of young kids and they got some good experience and saw what this level is about," he said.
Pedriani, 18, said he wasn’t necessarily thinking about getting on the podium. He just wanted to come out and show that he could compete at a high level internationally.
"I’m kind of new to this competition on this kind of level," he said. "I wasn’t really focusing on placing in a certain spot or anything. I was just trying to bring everything together that I’ve learned in training and throw it down in two solid runs."
Though he had some problems earlier in the competition, Pedriani said he was able to overcome them before the big races started.
"Throughout the week, there were definitely some problems I encountered," he said. "But, along with my coaches, we figured it all out and made it work. I’m pretty happy with my performance today and my performance yesterday."
Moving forward, Pedriani, a Vermont native, said he hoped to parlay his success in Park City into a strong second half of the season.
"It definitely boosts my confidence," he said. "I don’t want to get too cocky, though. I don’t want to have a set goal for myself each race. I just want to try and learn all the curves and put the curves together to get two really good runs down. Wherever that puts me, I’m happy with that."
Owen said the entire squad learned some valuable lessons from the Junior World Cup, including how critical starts are. He’s excited to get back to work with the team.
"That’s very good for going back into training for the rest of the winter," he said. "Now they understand why I say what I say."
After a brief Christmas break, in which several local athletes will continue to work with Owen at the UOP, the team will begin to focus on the rest of the competition schedule.
"Now we sort of regroup and get things back under a calmer training window," Owen said. "Then we just start looking toward nationals at the end of the year."
But first, Pedriani and the other sliders plan to enjoy the quick break.
"I’m happy to go home and see my family and snowboard, actually," Pedriani said.
The Youth Sports Alliance will host a team scramble golf tournament on June 3 at Victory Ranch in hopes of raising funds for its scholarships and youth programs.