Sliding sports seeking new recruits

Skeleton, bobsleigh, luge sessions set for Saturday (June 12)

Canada's sliding organizations are seeking out a new crop of speed-loving athletes to follow the golden footsteps of Jon Montgomery, Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse and the luging legacy from the likes of Sam Edney and Mike and Chris Moffat.

The Canadian Luge Association and the B.C. Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BCBSA) are casing the West Coast for the next generation of sliding stars in recruitment camps this summer, in the wake of the 2010 Olympics where Canadian athletes set hearts aflutter across the country with their performances at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

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Who wants to follow the Olympic gold-medal-winning ways of skeleton star Montgomery and bobsledders Humphries and Moyse, and the top-10 Olympic luge results posted by Edney and the doubles duo of the Moffat brothers?

Nicole Simon, the program coordinator for the Canadian and B.C. luge associations and the BCBSA, said she's been collecting the email addresses and phone numbers of the many people who have gotten in touch since the Games, and has let all of them know about the upcoming recruitment sessions.

"(For) bobsleigh and skeleton, especially skeleton, because of Jon Montgomery out here, we've had tons of requests," Simon said.

The annual camps help introduce athletes to the sliding sports, and assess their physical fitness for future involvement in the programs. There's a luge session set for this Saturday (June 12) at the Whistler Sliding Centre, running from 9 a.m. to noon, and the first BCBSA talent identification camp here is scheduled to run Saturday at 5 p.m.

The luge recruitment camps are intended for young athletes ages eight to 14, introducing them to the sport and gear before putting them through their paces in dryland tests to show agility, flexibility and general athletic ability. Participants also get to go through the motions of the sport with some wheeled luge runs.

Luge is particularly well suited for "kids that are a bit fearless and like to go really fast," Simon said.

Speed fiends older than 14 could consider getting involved with bobsleigh and skeleton, starting with the physical testing sessions that assess each athlete's skills for the essential lightning-fast starts. Sprinters and rugby and football players are particularly coveted for bobsleigh, Simon said, thanks to their speed and power to launch into runs.

The BCBSA's talent identification camp in Whistler is will test sprinting and jumping skills only, with weightlifting to come in a later event. Simon said she's hoping to invite the participants back for another session when the track opens, doing a full test including weightlifting and getting the athletes on the ice.

The camps offer a genuine conduit for getting involved in the sliding sports. Last year, about 50 local athletes were sliding in Whistler as bobsleigh brakemen, and about 11 athletes who had gone through talented identification camps and skeleton school sessions honed their skills by sliding each week, Simon said.

While some of the athletes are just doing it for fun, others have a genuine interest in racing, training hard in the gym and trying out for the national teams, she added.

Aspiring luge racers can draw inspiration from the young Sea to Sky sliders who are making strides with the youth program run at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Whistler and Pemberton athletes Archie Mahoney, Veronica Ravenna, Adam Shippit, Jenna Spencer and Reid Watts were scheduled to join 2010 Canadian Olympians Alex Gough, Jeff Christie and Edney outside the Vancouver Public Library on Wednesday (June 9) for a roller-luge demonstration designed to launch the recruitment drive.

To register for the luge recruitment camps, go to www.luge.ca/recruitment_camps.cfm. To register for the bobsleigh and skeleton testing sessions, contact Simon at nsimon@slidebc.ca and check out www.slidebc.ca for more details.

The Canadian Luge Association is leading other recruitment sessions at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park this summer, and the BCBSA has been working with Pacific Sport to send its testing show on the road around the province since May.

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