Luge thoughts: Uphill in Sochi

A few members of the U.S. luge team checked in today from Sochi (or, technically, Rzhanaya Polyana), and we learned the following:

– The track has some substantial uphill portions, which can be a bit of a challenge for people getting their bearings. “It does kind of affect your vision coming uphill to a crest, especially going blind into a curve,” said doubles slider Matt Mortensen and his echo. “That curve goes back downhill.” (On a related note: Phone connections from the mountains were a little spotty.)

– It’s not a particularly difficult track. (Easy for them to say, sure.) Finding speed might be tough.

Want to see for yourself? Here’s 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer when he got some time on the track in March (the big uphill is between Turns 14 and 15, so … count carefully):

– Mazdzer says construction is still going on at a frenetic pace, but at least now, you can see progress on things like windows.

– Erin Hamlin says, in response to a question about fears from the fatal accident at Whistler in 2010, that she feels quite safe on this track.

– It’s relatively warm in the area at the moment, which makes the track a little frosty.

The U.S. men’s team had a rough time last winter, but Mazdzer posted a few good results after missing the first three World Cup races. Then 17-year-old Tucker West, the best of a promising group of young sliders, tied Mazdzer for first place in the recent national championships. Ties don’t happen often in a sport timed to the 0.001 of a second.

The women welcome back Julia Clukey, who had surgery to correct a spinal condition in 2011. She upset former world champion Hamlin in the national championships.

Mortensen and Preston Griffal will be the top U.S. doubles team in the absence of Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman. Niccum is recovering from surgery and may be back for the World Championships. Both teams were in the World Cup top 10 last season.

Audio is posted at USALuge.org. You may need to change a “1” from a “2” in the URL to hear Part 2.

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