USA luger Matthew Greiner loves nothing more than hurtling down an icy track at speeds of up to 130 kilometres per hour. His mother, however, feels rather differently.
“She is worried,” 16-year-old Greiner said. “I am sure that as I come out of the outrun she will be shaking. She will be so scared for me.”
That fear has not stopped her making the trip to St Moritz to support her son as he competes in men’s singles at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
And what makes his mother nervous is exactly what attracts Greiner to the sport. The speed.
“With the success I’ve found, my parents have found a way to get over it and let me do what I need to do.”
A combination of bravery and technical skill will decide the victors in an event that starts on January 17. Spread over three days of racing at the St. Moritz Olympia Bob Run, men and women will compete in singles and doubles competitions, plus a team relay event.
The prestige of the St. Moritz track, the oldest course in the sport, has created an exciting historical backdrop. It is also known for being incredibly quick.
“In St. Moritz you can reach speeds of 130 kilometres per hour,” Barbara Allmaier (AUT) said. “On other tracks you can feel when it’s very fast, but in St Moritz, you just glide. It’s such a good feeling.”
The 16-year-old, who races in the women’s singles competition, is a “perfectionist” and at the back of her mind is the knowledge that the tiniest mistake might lead to a painful crash.
“Luge is not for the faint hearted,” she said. “You should be prepared to have some insecure moments, but that is part of it. Do I get frightened? Of course.”
The team relay event adds to the drama in St Moritz, and the anxiety levels.
“I’m so nervous,” Allmaier said of the competition in which athletes must tap a pad at the bottom of the course before their teammate can begin their race. “When I make a mistake it’s my problem, but if I don’t touch the pad in the team race, they can’t get down.”
Allmaier’s Austria have a strong tradition in the sport, and with powerhouses Germany, Canada, Italy, Russia and Latvia among the field, the competition in St Moritz is sure to be ultra-quick and ultra-competitive.