Just when we thought that all was “safe and sound” for luge at the Sochi Olympics, the final week of training was disrupted by an unusual power outage today at the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Mark Grimmette, USA Luge Sport Program Director, said, “Partway through the training, the power went out. We did not know what was going on at the time.” While it happened at 2:00 this afternoon under sunny skies, the lack of electricity put the lugers at risk because critical track conditions and start times could not be blared out by a public announcement system.
Team USA lugers have been honing their sliding skills on this Sanki Sliding Center’s 1800 meter track since November 1 – the start of this “International Training Week.” This session is the last chance for any feet-first sledder, outside of Russia, to practice at this Olympics venue before the Winter Games begin on February 7th next year.
“During the first four days of training, the sliding was going well,” said the two-time Olympics luge doubles medalist Grimmette who was on-site. “The athletes were getting used to the track.”
Once race officials decided to cancel the rest of today's training, American team members such as Erin Hamlin, Julia Clukey, and Chris Mazdzer returned to their hotel, only to find it too was blacked-out. As a result, their participation in today's media conference call was canned, so Grimmette and USA Luge public relations staff fielded questions instead. As last reported, the athletes were playing cards by candlelight.
Grimmette said that training is expected to resume tomorrow at the track, where lugers have been averaging three runs per day. In the interim, race and city officials are rushing to determine the cause of this outage, a frequent occurrence in the city of Sochi where construction dust still fills the air.
At a broader level, USA Luge Marketing Director and Olympics medalist Gordy Sheer stated that, despite this setback, “The lugers will have about 50 runs completed before the Sochi Olympics,” on a track that is much safer and slower than the Vancouver Olympics run where Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili died during training, just before the Winter Games began.
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