Sliding track getting new start house for luge 

Upgrades come at the request of international organization

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID MCCOLM - new start Alex Gough slides down the Whistler Sliding Centre track at the FIL World Cup in 2011.
  • Photo by David Mccolm
  • new start Alex Gough slides down the Whistler Sliding Centre track at the FIL World Cup in 2011.

At the request of the German-based International Luge Federation, Whistler's multi-million dollar sliding track is getting a significant upgrade, embedding the makeshift changes made after the fatal Olympic luge accident two years ago.

Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL), which operates the track, is preparing to build not only a new start house next to the track, but is also gearing up to fix the entry angle into the first curve of the luge women's and doubles' start. The work is being done in preparation for the 44th annual World Championships in Whistler in February.

It's not clear how much it will cost the cash-strapped legacy organization or what the new building will look like as WSL representatives were not available to provide the details this week.

But Canadian luge athletes are looking forward to the changes both on and off the fastest ice in the world, with the new start house taking them out of a makeshift trailer and giving them a start that they can really sink their sleds into.

"Now it (will be) more of a world class starting facility, which is what I think they really wanted to achieve on Whistler," said Sam Edney, one of Canada's top male lugers and also the athlete representative for the Canadian Luge Association.

"...It's such a great track, but it was such a downer for everyone to be starting from a start where you could tell it wasn't designed for world class athletes."

The women's and doubles' start was never intended to be the start when the track was built for the 2010 Olympics.

But in the wake of the fatal accident that killed Georgian luge Nodar Kumaritashvili on a training run the opening day of the 2010 Games, immediate changes were made to the track to slow down the ice and curb the toe-curling speeds.

The original men's start was moved down the track to the women's start point below Curve 2.

The women's luge and men's doubles were then moved to the junior start at Curve 5, which has an extremely sharp curve just below where the athletes get into the ice. That move was not without its controversies at the time, with Olympic athletes criticizing the makeshift start and how the first curve approached too quickly.

"The chance of screwing up and having the wrong line into the very first curve, it was a pretty good chance you were going to do it, and if you did that in the very first curve you'd lose so much speed right away that your run is kind of over," said Edney.

"Obviously no one could foresee what was going to happen and that we would be moving down our start height so that's just something that's now in the past and we're looking forward to this new start house and this new entrance."

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