In 2010, Reid Watts had the unique experience of watching the winter Olympic Games in his own backyard.
It was a thrill for the local luge athlete, who’s dreamt of representing Team Canada at the Olympics since he first slid down the Whistler Sliding Centre track in 2009.
“I was so inspired by the Canadian athletes,” he said.
Now, Watts is preparing to compete alongside some of those athletes. In February, he will compete in his very first Olympic games, after being officially named to Team Canada on Dec. 20.
“I’m really excited,” said Watts, who turned 19 on Dec. 22. “I was definitely kind of expecting it, but it’s good. It’s a weight off the shoulder. I’m happy that I know it’s for sure now; really happy.”
It’s a welcome dose of good news for Watts after a tough first half of the World Cup season. “So far, leading up to (this announcement, my season) has gone less than ideal for me,” he said. “With the first two races, battling some weather conditions with the ice, and just a little rough around the edges in some places. But when we came to the last two races in North America —Calgary and Lake Placid — that’s when I felt it got back on track.”
Back on track is one way to refer to Watts’ performance in Calgary. He earned a personal best World Cup performance, finishing 17th. “That’s a good takeaway,” he said.
Now home in Whistler for the holidays, Watts is looking forward to having an opportunity to “just relax.”
“It’s always so go-go-go on the road, that just getting back and relaxing is just what I need right now,” he said.
After the holiday break, Watts will head back out on tour. He’s set to compete in Germany, Norway and Latvia before heading to South Korea for the main event. “There’s still four more World Cups on the World Cup tour before the Games, so just with those, keep learning, keep getting that experience, learn from my mistakes and then, at the Olympic Games, I just want to slide my best, have four good runs and see what the result is,” Watts said.
Results aside, Watts, who became the first Canadian to win a medal at the Youth Olympic Winter Games when he won bronze in 2016, said the nerves have yet to kick in regarding his Olympic debut. For now, he’s just excited to race for Team Canada. “The whole package of the Olympics is what I’m looking forward to most, not one thing in particular,” he said.
Watts will have plenty of time to enjoy the full package as well, thanks to a forgiving competition schedule: luge is one of the first events on the docket. “You’re the first ones done, so you can go around and do the whole Olympic experience — watch, have fun and not have the cloud over you that you still have to race and compete,” he said.
And while Watts might be new to the idea of being an Olympian, he’s already got some experience when it comes to competing on the South Korean track, after 10 days spent training in PyeongChang this past fall.
“We got 30 good training runs in,” he said. “It went well. I really liked the track, we know what to expect. There’s some interesting sections, so it’s going to make for a really interesting race.”