Somewhere between Friday and Saturday the East Coast Blizzard left the Lake Placid area and things cleared out. The great view from the track had returned.
But while it was nice and clear, it was also cold.
Like I said yesterday our job as officials at the start was to make sure that the competition was fair and well run. Here is the start “control” area.
The athletes wear special booties that are aerodynamic and point the feet, they are also very slick. The carpet is to give them something to walk on. We had to keep the snow off of it. On the right of the picture is a whiteboard with temperatures: air, track ice, and a control steel. The control steel is on the little tripod in the middle of the picture. The athletes are allowed to have their runners be 5 C warmer than the control steel temperature. That prevents heated steels which would make the sleds go faster. On the left is a scale and a measurement table. We weight the athlete along with their sled to make sure they are below their limit (based on the athletes weight, gear allowance, and sled weight). Again its a gravity sport so weight is important and we are insuring that no one is adding extra weight to cheat. The little bus stop like structure is a heated holding area where the athletes can wait for their time to slide.
The start ramp looks like this:
We had the required advertising signage for the TV coverage. There is a timer that gives a 30 second countdown after the slider is cleared to go. You must be onto the track before that timer reaches zero or you are disqualified.
The men’s race was really quite interesting. The dominant man, Felix Loch, had scratched because of a crash during training. That meant the competition was wide open. The US’s best male slider is Chris Mazdzer. (Funny aside, Chris’s dad is one of Bailey’s doctors. It’s a small world.) Chris had a bad first run. He fumbled the start curve and ended up around 10th in the pecking order. His second run was spectacular. About 4 sliders went after him, each failed to catch him. Each time one of them finished a roar went up from the crowd. Chris ended up moving into 5th place (his best finish in a world cup race).
The final two sliders were an interesting look at the sport. The second to last slider was Armin Zoggeler from Italy. Armin is the old man of the sport. He is a two time Olympic champion and a 5 time Olympic medalist. The last slider was Dominik Fishnaller also from Italy. Dominik is 19 years old and is on his was up. He won the Junior World Championships (for under 20 sliders), absolutely crushing all the other sliders in that competition. Dominik was first after the first run. Zoggeler slide a tremendous second run and put the pressure on. Dominik, fumbled just a little bit and ended up in second. A great race. Especially if you are an Italian. They swept the men’s race. (What no Germans? Yes!).
The second competition of the day was the Team Relay. In this race they send the women’s slider. When she reaches the bottom she hits a pad and that releases the singles male slider. When he reaches the bottom and hits a pad the doubles team is released. Its a fun fast paced ride. The US team went 3rd and after their run found themselves in first place. They remained in first place until the last team ( the German’s) slide. The US crowd was whipped into a frenzy. As the German’s slide, we had a lead after the singles sleds finished their runs. Unfortunately the lead slipped away as the German doubles team had a great clean ride down the track and we finished second for a silver medal.
My job for that race was to catch the sliders on the outrun so that they could get out of the track before the next sled came to the finish. I was on NBC while doing that! (OK, apparently my legs were on NBC. My black ski pants were all you could see!).
My final thoughts on the competition?
1. Holy crow it was cold standing outside for two days. You have no idea how tiring that can be.
2. Weirdest thing I saw…The Austrian coach putting a tooth back into the mouth of the Italian coach while a run was happening.
3. My claim to fame….Being pushed out of the way by Armin Zoggler. Apparently he has a very precise ritual that did not include me standing in front of his sled to measure the steel temperatures. I did get that done though, so he was legal.
4. It was totally awesome to have fans at the track, and to have them cheering for our sliders. Very different from what we normally experience.
Tomorrow: The 2013 Empire State Games (Or what happens when the the crowds leave, and the old guys slide)