The offseason life of a USA Luge athlete

At left, USA Luge athletes Hunter Harris, Matthew Greiner, Zack DiGregorio, Tucker West, Emily Sweeney, Ashley Farquharson, Chevonne Forgan and Jonny Gustafson pose for a photo at the Olympic and Paralympic Day at Mount Van Hoevenberg on June 23. (News photo — Parker O’Brien)

LAKE PLACID — It would be strange to see some of your favorite Olympians waiting on you at a restaurant, but in Lake Placid that could happen.

It’s been nearly five months since the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China and for the many USA Luge athletes living in Lake Placid or the surrounding area that means it’s the offseason.

For most people, an offseason would entail a vacation or some sort of break, but for USA Luge athletes that’s not always the case.

“The sport is a full-time job for us now,” three-time Olympian Tucker West said. “We have dry land training, then we also have a start ramp over on Church Street in town. We’ll pull starts almost every day and then work out in the gym almost every day.”

The luge athletes spend most of their time working out — cardio, abdominal workouts and tempo — at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center and working on their start at the USA Luge start house facility.

“We have a great facility in town at the luge training facility,” two-time Olympian and Saranac Lake native Emily Sweeney said. “We have ice that we can practice our starts on and that’s crucial for us when we get back on World Cup and on tour. It’s a lot of weight lifting and getting your body fit and getting ready for the season and practicing our starts.”

West said it’s a relatively large time commitment. He estimated training takes up about 20 to 30 hours a week and the rest of it is enjoying the town.

While training takes up a good portion of their time, each athlete chooses that little bit of free time differently.

“For me, I work at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery a couple of days a week,” 2022 Olympian and Massena native Jonny Gustafson said. “But depending on the athlete — work, school, just having a little bit of play time as well — doing whatever we can to keep ourselves occupied and to keep a little bit of training.”

Gustafson isn’t alone. According to West, many luge athletes pick up various jobs during the offseason.

“A lot of people are servers around just to support their training and competition,” West said.

“I worked last summer,” 2022 Olympian Zack DiGregorio said. “This summer I’m not working. I think everyone has sort of grown up and had jobs around town, which has been fun.”

2018 Olympic silver medalist and Saranac Lake native Chris Mazdzer worked as a bartender after making the 2010 Winter Olympics, according to a Wealthsimple Magazine article.

“Everyone has their own things that they have to fit in,” Sweeney said. “For me also we’re traveling from the end of September until the end of February usually, so it’s a lot of time to try and fit in with your family.

“I think that work-life balance thing is this elusive thing that everyone is trying to get a little bit of that in, in the summer,” she added.