If you are over the age of 12, can run a mile in respectable time, do a fair number of push-ups and don't mind laying down on the job, the U.S. Luge Team wants you.
At least they want to give you a try. Today. On a back road at Jeremy Ranch. Yes, on a regular luge, only these roll along on shopping cart wheels instead of ice.And, if national lugers Bonny Warner and Jason Curliano like what they see, consider it the first step to the icy-smooth course that will be built for the 1992 Olympics and a gold medal.
As part of a seven-city shopping tour for potential world class lugers, Warner and Curliano have set up an asphalt luge run on a mountain road on the north side of the Jeremy Golf Course.
Anyone is welcome to try. Warner and Curliano are mainly looking for potential Olympians between the ages of 12 and 22 - "We will consider people that are older if we see some exceptional talent. Last year we had one that was 27. He eventually made the development team," said Warner.
Utahns who would like to see if they've got the stuff to run 70 to 80 miles per hour on a sled no bigger than a food tray, on an icy course that winds about like a blind snake, can join one of the sessions for a small fee - $8 for juniors, $12 for adults. The first session will begin today at 9 a.m. There will also be sessions on Sunday.
Those trying out will be shown the finer points of luge riding, including how easy, despite appearances, it is to steer. They'll run a course, even get to start off a ramp. The road is challenging - "This is the best track we've had so far," said Warner - and wheeled-luges are not slow.
The French-originating sport is not well known in America. There is, in fact, only one refrigerated track in the United States - in Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the 1980 Olympics.
In the luge, sliders lay prone on a sled slimilar to what children used to ride, with runners, a seat and "kufins" (French for wood runners) for steering. The course is icy and twists and turns just like a bobsled track. Sliders, as they're called, race singly or in twos. Lugers go down the track feet first and steer by applying pressure to one of the kufins with the leg and tilting the head.
The best riders, said Curliano, are usually the most experienced. It's a sport where the more runs a rider can put in, the better he or she can learn to read and ride a course.
"That's what we are doing this for, we want to get young sliders that will be with the sport for some time," he added.
After five stops - San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Minneapolis and Seattle - Warner and Curliano have watched 470 people ride the luges and take a fitness test. After Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs, they figure they will have more than 1,000 names to select from.
When the tour is complete, the two will mail invitations to 75 to come to the Lake Placid track for on-ice training. At least five will come from the Salt Lake tryouts and possibly as many as 20. From the 75, 16 will qualify for more training, after which 10 will be invited to be on the development team. Some sliders from this group will be placed on a traveling team that will tour and train in Europe. According to Curliano, no luger can be competitive without spending time training in Europe.
There is another reason, too, Utahns may want to take the luge course. According to Jack Turner, director of the Utah Winter Games, a recreational luge course will be built at Jeremy Ranch this winter and a luge event will be added to the Games' schedule this coming January.
With the recreational courses being built and the exposure this tour is giving the sport, Warner and Curliano see days ahead refrigerated tracks will be built and people will choose to go "luging" on a Saturday afternoon.