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Junior Racers the Future of US Luge Team

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A winter wonderland surrounds the fast-paced luge course.
LAKE PLACID — They are the future of the US Luge program, young people, barely teens, with Olympic dreams. A quick jog through the snow gets the blood flowing, then it's up to the warmup shack.

They get loose, shake out the kinks and slide down the luge track inside their heads. Caleb Smith explains that envisioning the track fixes in your mind what the curves are before you actually go down.

With luging, there's no such thing as just natural talent. It takes good amount of work and dedication.

Members of the junior development luge team ride on their backs feet-first on 60-pound sleds that can go 50-miles an hour. It's just step three in a 12 step ladder that leads to the Olympics. If you make a mistake here, there's time to learn from it.

Allison Sweeney knows that messing up one turn could ruin the rest of the run. Sweeney and other young lugers also know there will be a time when they have to put aside that teamwork, a time when it will be all for one.

"The sleds can get heavy after a while," says Allison, "and the emotions can get heavier after a while."

The next level is junior national. There are only ten slots, and 45 other kids are training in other parts of the country. It's a life lesson in motivation and hard work, focusing on a goal and a dream.

"It's hard, 'cause you practice with 'em all the time," Caleb explains. "And as soon as you get to a race, it's one for all, all for all. it's tough."

But for now, at this age and level, they're more likely to lend a hand, not only to be the first US luge medalist, but to win gold. That's Caleb's goal.

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Jim Payne, Reporter
Richard Adkins, Photographer
Kerrie Hudzinski, Web Editor

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