Local Athletes Aspire to be Olympic Lugers
Mikhala Rivers from Maple Grove and Luci Hegi from Fridley participated in a one-week training in luge at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. Rivers, who also plays basketball at Maple Grove Middle School, says sliding is her favorite thing to do. During a regular snow season, she enjoys sliding down the hill that her dad makes in her Maple Grove backyard.
Mikhala loves to slide
Mikhala’s mom had second thoughts when she saw her daughter barreling down an Olympic-caliber luge track at speeds up to 40 miles per hour.
“The first thought as a mom that goes through your head is am I crazy as a mom for letting my child do this,” remembers Suzie Rivers. “And where can I go to get her off the track?”
But after more than a dozen runs during a one-week training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, she grew to accept luge was the next step in her daughter’s love of sledding.
“From the minute we moved here, she’s loved sledding,” said Rivers. “Every change we got in the winter, she talked her dad into building a sledding hill.”
Rivers has You-Tube videos of her daughter going down her backyard hill, while she announces like her daughter is sledding for an Olympic medal. Those clips may prove to be prophetic.
Summer Sliding on a Minneapolis Exit Ramp
Mikhala Rivers participated in a training clinic called the “Slider Search” in Minneapolis last summer. The event by Team USA Luge and White Castle, is a grass roots recruitment program aimed at introducing youth to the sport of luge. Children ages 9-13 interested in luge got to ride a sled down an access ramp from East Franklin Ave to West River Parkway, under the Highway 94 overpass. Top participants were asked to come to Lake Placid for a training camp.
Mikhala and a new friend, Luci Hegi from Fridley showed up and were asked to go to the next level.
At U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY
The girls spent four days with other kids learning the sport of luge and sledding at speeds of 40 miles per hour.
“You can’t just hear advice from the instructors and think you can do it better because they know what they are doing. They are Olympians,” says Hegi. “It was exhilarating. It was incredible.”
The first runs were tough. They didn’t know how to steer.
“For my first four runs, I would ping pong against the sides,” remembered Mikhala. “I thought my sled was going to break, but surprisingly they are very sturdy.”
The girls hope to get to go back to Lake Placid for another training camp. Based on their performance, they could be asked to come back to train again on the junior Luge development team.
Mikhala says she’d be there in a minute.
“I would do that, basically every day,” says Mikhala.