Burlington High School freshman Eamonn Bottger wants to represent the United States at the Olympics in luge, and he’s headed down the right track.
Luge is a sport where one or two people race down a twisting ice track on a small sled on their backs. Steering is done by pushing one’s calf against the runners. Lugers also will use their body weight by leaning slightly to either side of the sled.
The recruiting process for the national luge team is relatively simple. The USA Luge team goes around to different cities to see if there are any prospects. Kids are taught how to steer and given roller sleds to use on a street. If they have potential they are selected to go to a screening camp where they do their first runs ons a real ice track. From there they are moved onto the National Development Team where they train to eventually make the national team.
Bottger started this process when he was 10-years-old and has now been doing luge for four years on the Development Team. The eastern portion national Development Team trains in Lake Placid, N.Y. while the western portion trains in Utah at the olympic facilities. Since the training is in Lake Placid, Bottger stays there during the winter to train and misses a lot of school.
“This past winter I missed maybe 10 or 11 weeks of school because of my training,” Bottger said. “It’s not really too hard, I have a tutor, but some of the stuff is definitely harder to get but I also get help from teachers. We have plenty of time while we are there so I am able to do all my work.”
This year he missed more school than usual because he is training with the Development Team as well as the Candidate Team, which is the next level up. He recently began doubles, where two lugers are on the sled instead of one and has had success. It is expected that he will move to this team relatively soon and after that is the Junior National Team. Bottger has set extremely high goals and plans to reach them.
“My most basic goal is the olympics, it’s definitely achievable especially with doubles because there aren’t as many teams as there are for singles,” Bottger said.
Luge can be a dangerous sport however. Friday March 24, at his most recent training session in Lake Placid, Bottger got a concussion from hitting his head against the curve of the track after flying off the sled. Concussions are a common occurrence in luge, according to Bottger, but this does not dissuade him from training. He enjoys the adrenaline and thrill that comes from the sport.
“It’s really exhilarating when you go down the track, you just see everything fly by you. You get Gs on the curves and you just feel yourself rocketing forward and it’s just really fun,” Bottger said.