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USA Luge, you have our attention

May 20, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

When news came earlier this week that the U.S. Luge Association Board of Directors unanimously decided to ask cities across America to bid for the national governing body's new official home, shock waves of emotion rippled through New York's Olympic Village.

It was a sad day for this community.

While USA Luge would still have a presence in Lake Placid, including training at the Mount Van Hoevenberg sliding track, the official headquarters could move out of Lake Placid for the first time since the organization was created in 1979.

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On the surface, this decision seemed like a devastating blow to Lake Placid, but we don't see it that way. We see this - and we hope the community sees this - as an opportunity to help USA Luge grow so they can continue to successfully train athletes and bring home Olympic medals.

With this decision, USA Luge made a bold statement, as if to say, "We need help, and we need it now. Who is willing to help us?"

Lake Placid is the home of USA Luge, and that should never change. We should lead the charge to help USA Luge. If we don't, we could lose an important piece of our Olympic Village.

We urge community leaders to bid for USA Luge's official home and do everything in their power to meet and exceed the requirements for the request for proposal that will be drafted in August. Village, town and county boards should pass resolutions in support of keeping USA Luge in Lake Placid, and they should start working with our state and federal representatives today.

It's no secret that USA Luge has been having tough financial times. That's always a challenge for lesser-known Olympic sports such as luge. Yet without money, the organization cannot train athletes properly and promise success on the race track.

Sports Programs Director Mark Grimmette knows what it takes to win medals on a luge sled. A five-time Olympian, he won a bronze in 1998 and a silver in 2002 in the men's doubles event. At the USA Luge meeting on May 31, 2014 in Park City, Utah, he told the board of directors that Erin Hamlin's 2014 bronze medal at Sochi was evidence that the organization was improving. However, as they look forward to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea, their goal is to see improvement in all sliding disciplines.

Grimmette listed the three biggest challenges in order to make those improvements: track time, quality sleds and access to technology. Athletes need to train on as many tracks as possible, with quality ice, but travel has been limited because of funding constraints. Furthermore, they need to continue to improve the quality of sleds in order to stay competitive.

The fact that USA Luge has continued to nurture medalists, despite their financial situation, is nothing short of miraculous. They're good at what they do. Just think what they can do with more financial support.

The USA Luge directors are doing what is necessary to survive. They can no longer continue on the current road to gold without more support. They need money. They need new facilities. They need more community support.

This is Lake Placid's time to shine. Whether we get another Winter Olympics in the future is not part of this conversation. Our current place in the Olympic movement is to train athletes. We can think of no better way to show the world that Lake Placid is a relevant Olympic village than to help USA Luge grow into one of the most successful winter sports on the U.S. Olympic Committee's roster of eight winter NGBs.

At this time we only have one NGB that's 100 percent in Lake Placid. While the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation operates out of the Lake Placid office, it has a secondary office in Colorado Springs. The importance of the USBSF in Lake Placid cannot be emphasized enough. In our efforts to help USA Luge, we should make sure all sliding sports are thoroughly supported in Lake Placid.

People say "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." This decision is not just about economics or Lake Placid's place in the Olympic movement. It's about the community.

Think about the people who work at USA Luge. They're our friends and neighbors. They're community leaders. They're people like USA Luge Marketing Manager Dmitry Feld, who is the president of the Shipman Youth Center board and does a ton of volunteer work for this community. His work at the youth center and other organizations, including the I Love BBQ and Music Festival, has a direct impact on the lives of residents and visitors. This is what USA Luge does for Lake Placid.

Interested cities should contact Jim Leahy, CEO of USA Luge, by July 31 for serious consideration. Lake Placid should be on top of that list. Let's work together to keep USA Luge. It is indeed one of the organizations that makes Lake Placid the best place to live and visit on Earth.



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