14-Year-Old Vermonter Earns Spot On Junior National Candidate Team For Luge
Hurtling down a track made of ice at 65 miles an hour may sound appealing to some young athletes, but only a select few can handle the speed and pressure of the fastest sport on ice. And 14-year-old Wolfgang Lux, from Swanton, is one of them. Lux is hoping to make luge racing a career, and he recently received word that he made the Junior National Candidate Team. He's hoping it will lead to a spot in the 2024 Junior Olympics.
“I was actually in the gym and my dad came in and shared the news with me and my trainer," Lux said. "I didn’t believe it at first. I just got happy.”
Lux is one of just 20 youth luge competitors across the country to be invited to the USA Junior National Luge Candidate Team, out of about a thousand hopefuls. In 2019, Lux scored a big win at the North Youth Nationals luge competition in Park City, Utah.
“I went there two years ago and I won gold in one of the races,” Lux said.
Speed is of course a critical factor in the selection process, but Lux says it’s not the only one. Scouts are looking for more.
“They’re not just looking for speed," Lux said. "They’re looking for technique and positioning, because you get more speed when you have better positioning and technique.”
Then there’s the issue of stopping, which isn’t so easy when you’re racing a 50-pound sled without brakes that can reach speeds upwards of 90 miles an hour.
“There are no brakes, so when we get to the end of the track, we sit up and we grab the kufins and pull them up, which leaves only the back end of the steels, which will scrape against the ice and slow it down.”
This year, Lux learned to race from Start 3, a position that gets the sled up to about 65 miles an hour, where it takes the vessel about 40 seconds to hit the end of the track.
“There are different starts on the track. It goes from Start 5, Start 4, and Start 3. Start 3 is what I’m going from," Lux said. "It’s a lot harder than the others, but once you get it down and you remember the curves, it’s a lot more fun than the other ones."
In another year or two, Lux says he might be able to go from Start 2 and go even faster.
A thin suit helps with aerodynamics.
“And we have to wear these booties to keep your feet pointed straight. And we also wear a face mask to keep the snow and wind out of your face, so you don't fog up," he said. "And on the gloves, you have spikes on the first three fingers. Those spikes are used to start off when you’re going down the track.”
Luge also comes with its own vocabulary, like the "kufins" Lux’s feet rest on when he’s in a supine position.
“It's [the kufins] also a form of steering, going down the track. It’s your main option for steering,” he said.
Lux trains year-round at the gym to work on his core strength, while building the muscles in his legs and shoulders.
“I usually work on upper body and core," he said. "And you have to eat healthy. They don’t want you eating stuff you’ll get addicted to, like junk food. They want you to eat semi-healthy, to get you in shape for the Junior Olympics.”
“I’d go down there and we'd do the wheel training down there," said Lux. "So it’s on wheels, going down the hill. They take the steels off the sled and they put kufins that have the wheels on it [instead].”
Like many athletes, Lux has a routine when he steps onto the track, and a mindset to deal with pre-race anxiety.
“When I’m just about to get on the sled," he said, "I’m nervous, and I get cold, colder than I usually do. And then I take a couple breaths and I just go down; I just let the sled go.”
And with the news of making the Junior Candidate Team, Lux is one step closer to realizing his luge aspirations.
“My longterm dream is to make it to the Olympics and at least be in the Olympic games doing Luge.”
But for now, Lux said, "I’m just gonna hope to improve on the track and go forward.”
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