LAKE PLACID - With light snow covering Mount Van Hoevenberg Friday morning, 2010 Olympic luge racer Chris Mazdzer took the first official trip down the combined luge, bobsled and skeleton track as the fall training season got under way.
The 24-year-old resident of Saranac Lake opened the training session with five of his teammates and took a total of six runs down the three-fourths-of-a-mile-long course.
The luge group slid from the slightly lower women's start. In the next few days, Mazdzer, along with Taylor Morris, Nick Gerardi and Aiden Kelly will step further up the course to the men's start.
Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake is all smiles after concluding his first luge run of the season Friday morning in Lake Placid. The combined luge, bobsled and skeleton course officially opened for the 2012-2013 season.
(Photo — USA Luge)
Junior National Team members Summer Britcher and Theresa Buckley took their runs from the women's start position.
"Day one was really good. I was impressed with the quality of the track today," said Mazdzer, who placed 13th at the Vancouver Games. "It felt pretty sweet out there and I think everyone will attest to that. My mentality was to attack and go as fast as I can. There is still time I can get out of my sled, but I wanted to go as fast as possible."
Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., is opening a new campaign after the 2011-2012 season saw her contribute to a Youth Olympic Games gold medal for the United States in the team relay.
"It felt really good. It was a good start to the season and it's great to be back on the ice," Britcher said. "I'm trying to get used to the feeling of the sled again; (to) get a good start and have a good mental outlook for the season. I'm usually nervous the first run, but after that it's fun again."
And that proud Youth Olympic Games achievement is something that continues to resonate.
"The gold medal was great but I'm trying to move on from that and look to the start of this season," continued the 18-year-old Britcher. "My soccer coach at home makes a big deal of that. It's kind of embarrassing."
By Tuesday, all six will be joined by the remainder of the National and Junior National teams, who jump-started their fall training over the past week at tracks in Whistler, British Columbia, Lillehammer, Norway and Sigulda, Latvia.
That group includes recent Olympians Erin Hamlin, Julia Clukey and Preston Griffall, along with Tucker West, another member of the Youth Olympic Games gold medal unit.
Team members will have to get up to speed quickly as they face the Norton National Championships in Lake Placid Oct. 26-28.
In addition to a full World Cup schedule beginning in late November in Igls, Austria, the tour will also include a stop at Whistler for the 2013 World Championships, a World Cup stop in Lake Placid Feb. 8-9 and a training session at Sochi, Russia Nov. 4-14 on the new 2014 Olympic track, as well as a second visit to Sochi for the official Olympic Test event/World Cup finale Feb. 23-24.