A little over four years ago, a teenage boy was hanging out with friends, playing football and doing what teenage boys do in tropical north Queensland. For Alex Ferlazzo, surfing on his longboard, eating ice cream and maybe some fishing were his main priorities.
A chance meeting by his mother with a retired luge athlete during a Pilates class would dramatically change the course of his life.
"My mother met Karen Flynn, a former luge athlete and the Recruitment and Development Manager for Luge Australia,” the 18-year-old said. At the time, he had only touched snow once, two years previously, and had no idea what the sport was. “I didn’t know what luge was until I went to a recruitment camp in Sydney and from that point I fell in love with the sport,” he said.
Fast-forward to 2013, and Ferlazzo has travelled and competed on tracks all over the world. He represented Australia at the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in January 2012, finishing a creditable 19th, and later that year made history by winning bronze in a Junior World Cup – Australia’s first ever medal at this level.
And now he has his sights set on competing at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Alex, whose place will be determined on his performance at the first four World Cup events of the season before the end of the year, has just completed a six-week European training camp including a week at the Sanki Sliding Centre, the venue for luge at the Sochi Winter Games.
“This track is different from others, with long entries and exits in most of the corners,” he said. “It isn't a hard track to finish but it's a hard track to be fast on. Staying on the perfect line is vital for sliding a respectable time, as this track has no place for error.”
An unlikely sport for a teenager from Townsville in Australia’s tropics, Alex explains: “I love the adrenaline rush up to six times a day, the focus it requires, and I find the technical side behind the sport very interesting.”
And you would have to love speed to enjoy this sport. The fastest speed Alex has ever reached is 132 km/h in Salt Lake City, Utah!
Based in his home country, where there is no luge track, Alex has to be creative with his training, and he spends a lot of time in the gym “improving my power and strength” and also participating in street luge, where he “works on positioning and technique”.
From longboard to luge, this is one creative athlete who hasn’t let anything stop him chasing his dreams! Good luck Alex and to all the other young athletes chasing their goals!
For the full story, check out the Australian Olympic Committee website: www.olympics.com.au