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Lake Placid is proud of our sliding teams

But we can do more — much more — to support them

February 4, 2016
Editorial , Lake Placid News

Words cannot describe how proud we are of the USA Luge and USA Bobsled and Skeleton teams this season, with their medal counts and exciting World Cup races in North America and Europe.

While many of us can't afford to travel and watch the athletes compete, we'd like them to know that the Lake Placid community is continually with them in spirit.

We haven't always said "great job" enough, but times are changing. More than ever, we are connected to our athletes almost daily on social media, rooting for them and congratulating them on a job well done. Yet there is much more we can do as a community to show our appreciation for these athletes who represent the U.S. and Lake Placid on the international stage.

Article Photos

U.S. women swept the podium at this season’s FIL Luge World Cup in Lake Placid. From left are Emily Sweeney (silver), Erin Hamlin (gold) and Summer Britcher (bronze).
(News photo — Shaun Kittle)

Before the digital revolution, when USA Luge and USA Bobsled and Skeleton left town to compete, the teams were out of sight and out of mind. Even when the sliders are at the hometown track at Mount Van Hoevenberg, we don't always see them to offer encouragement, and sadly most residents don't attend the World Cups in Lake Placid to cheer them on. If it weren't for all the school groups who visit the track, the crowds would be embarrassingly thin.

For too long, we've been content to read about the sliders' results in the newspaper while going about our winter routines and getting lost in the daily grind. Knowing our teams were on the road seemed good enough.

But it's just not good enough any more. Residents in Lake Placid, the Adirondack North Country region, and all of New York state must embrace their local Olympic teams - USA Luge and USA Bobsled and Skeleton - as they would a major league team, or we could lose them to another city and state. We need to be investing in our teams. Furthermore, we should be attracting other teams, such as U.S. Biathlon, to move their headquarters here.

Did you know that the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Hall of Fame is located at Mount Van Hoevenberg's Lamy Lodge in Lake Placid? We should also have a USA Luge Hall of Fame at the sliding track to honor the athletes, coaches and visionaries who transformed a fledgling group into a medal-winning team respected around the world. U.S. luge athletes first competed in the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, and USA Luge was formed in Lake Placid prior to the 1980 Winter Olympics.

So what can average people do to help their local Olympic teams?

Write to USA Luge and USA Bobsled and Skeleton by snail mail or email or post encouraging comments on the teams' Facebook pages. Above all, if the World Cups return to Lake Placid next season, make plans to attend. Buy team shirts and sweatshirts, and wear them proudly throughout the year.

These are our major league teams.


Call for action to keep USA Luge

Time is not on our side to keep USA Luge in Lake Placid. The team's board of directors will be deciding in the spring whether to move its headquarters from Lake Placid to Park City, Utah. If the team moves, it will still have a presence in Lake Placid, but that's not the same as having its headquarters here. What will happen to the staff - our friends, family and neighbors - who work at USA Luge? We'll probably lose some jobs, yet in the bigger picture, Lake Placid will lose a national governing body of Winter Olympic sports, only one of eight in the U.S.

Losing USA Luge would be a big deal because it would send a message to the rest of the world that Lake Placid - and New York state - can't keep an Olympic team, and the ripple effects could hurt the economy in the long run. The Empire State, home to the only sliding track in the U.S. from the 1932 Winter Olympics to the 2002 Winter Olympics, will begin to lose its grip on having an active role in the Olympic movement.

All the hard work and commitment from past generations of athletes, coaches and civic boosters since the 1920s to make Lake Placid a sliding sports mecca and Olympic Village will have been wasted. How can we let it slip away? We owe it to our forefathers, ourselves and future generations to move forward.

We can no longer rest on the laurels from those who came before us: Henry Uihlein II, Godfrey Dewey, Ronald MacKenzie, Robert Peacock, J. Bernard Fell, William J. Hurley, Stan Benham, James Sheffield, Art Devlin Sr., J. Vernon Lamb Jr., Norman Hess and countless others who volunteered their time - and a lot of money - to boost winter sports in Lake Placid.

It's time for us to carry the torch. Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall and Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna - the two who annually represent Lake Placid in Europe and keep us in the International Olympic Committee loop - can't do it alone.

Who will stand up and join them?

This is our time to build a better Lake Placid. Let's create the proposed Global Center of Sports Excellence. Let's move forward with plans to upgrade the Olympic venues and study a bid for a third Winter Olympics so we can improve our infrastructure in the entire region. And let's do everything we can to keep our sliding sports here.

If we don't, the future of U.S. Olympic sliding sports will shift from New York state to Utah, and it will be difficult to recover from that devastating blow. Is that the kind of Olympic legacy we want? Is that what Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants on his record? We don't think so.

Let's make a commitment to USA Luge by giving them the support they need, and that means funding. We hope state and federal lawmakers can step up at this crucial time. Lip service is not enough. We need action.

Most of us don't have deep pockets, but we can all show our support and appreciation. It only takes a little time, and your words of encouragement will go a long way. It just may be the morale boost our athletes need while they're thousands of miles away from home, competing on European tracks, sleeping in different hotels, missing friends and family at home.

For those who have spare change in their pockets, deep or not, make a phone call to USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy and offer what you can. If that means giving the team enough money to help build a new indoor start ramp, let's do it. If that means offering your services or raw materials to build an addition to the team's Church Street headquarters - so the team doesn't have to work on their sleds under a tent outside during the non-winter months - let's do it. If that means sponsoring the team so it can fund a successful development program, please consider doing it. Make that call today at 518-523-2071, and ask Jim, "How can we help?"

As for the Lake Placid News, we don't have deep pockets, but we can help promote USA Luge in our print and digital products. In the fall, we began running a weekly spot on our front page titled, "Where in the world is USA Luge?" The goal was to remind readers every week that our team is on the road representing the U.S. We wanted readers to know how good the team is doing on the World Cup tour, and we wanted athletes, coaches, staffers and the board of directors know that we haven't given up on USA Luge.

For the time being - and hopefully forever - USA Luge is one of Lake Placid's hometown teams.



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