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Luge World Cup circuit to stop in Park City

Weekend event will be homecoming for Parkite

U.S. luge athlete Chris Mazdzer goes through a run at Utah Olympic Park during the Viessmann Luge World Cup circuit last year.
Park Record File Photo

Over the weekend, the world’s best luge athletes will make a stop in Park City at Utah Olympic Park (UOP) for the fourth installment of the FIL Viessmann Luge World Cup circuit. There are nine total stops around the world, with Park City being just one of two hosts in the United States.

“This is something that people from all over, even if they live in the valley or if they live in Park City, can come and see the elite of the elite come to Park City to slide on one of the fastest tracks in the world,” Utah Olympic Park Marketing Manager Kole Nordmann said. “These events are a big thing for us, not only to keep our skills in tip-top shape, but also to share winter sports, especially luge, with the community and make it accessible to everybody.”

UOP will be one of three tracks in the world and the only one in America to host the BMW Sprint Cup. The two events will be intertwined throughout the weekend.

The event will span over two days on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, it will start with heats of the Doubles and Men’s races, two of each. The Women’s races and the BMW Sprint races will be reserved for Saturday.

The Women’s Singles luge finals will be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 1:08 p.m. MST on Saturday, Dec. 17. This is the first time that the World Cup circuit has ever been televised live and the first time for an international luge competition in a non-Olympic year.

For the many elite athletes who stay in Park City this weekend, this is just another stop on the tour. For one, however, it’s a homecoming.

Anthony Espinoza, who sits in 14th in the World Cups Doubles standings with his partner Jacob Hyrns, is a Park City native, graduating from Park City High School in 2011. His career started at UOP when he participated in a summer camp following the 2002 Winter Olympics.

“Being from Park City, it’s more than just the track itself,” Espinoza said. “It’s kind of the atmosphere of being home, being able to have the coziness of being with family and friends. … It makes yourself a little more comfortable going in, more confident. … I’m really confident going into this race that we’re going to be very apt to our environment here in Park City.”

Espinoza, who typically performs better on his home track, hopes his experience at UOP will prove useful on Friday. After all, the first turn of the Park City track is known for being one of the tougher ones.

According to Chris Mazdzer, who is one of the best U.S. luge athletes at No. 12 in the overall World Cup standings, the first turn is not built for luge. While this weekend will be luge specific, the UOP track is also reserved for bobsled and skeleton athletes throughout the year. Each sport has varying starts, including different starting points for men and women.

Where the men’s luge track meets the bobsled start, it’s not a straight shot like most tracks around the world. This forces athletes to come into the turn with a lot of speed at an awkward angle. In turn, athletes gain a lot of height due to the speed, which eventually pushes them into the right wall, which sometimes causes problems.

“It’s really easy to crash,” Mazdzer said. “It’s really easy to lose a lot of time. Even just being off line by a millimeter can change everything. I guess that’s what makes it so technical, is that sometimes you’ll go through there and you’ll be totally fine, but then you mess up by just a millimeter and it can throw everything away right there. I guess that’s what’s frustrating and difficult for the men.”

This weekend’s events are sure to draw huge crowds with the high level of competition set to take place, but there will be activities for the entire family. UOP will host a World Cup Holiday Festival at the same time.

Activities include free pictures with Santa, face painting, live entertainment and food trucks.

“We want to get as many people involved with winter sport as possible,” Nordmann said. “That ensures that everyone, whether you’re 5 years old or 50 years old, you’re going to have a good time.”

The first event of the weekend — the first heat of the Doubles Races — will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.


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