PARK CITY The fastest sport on ice is coming back to Utah and bringing with it a local flavor.
The World Cup Luge circuit is returning to Utah Olympic Park with the juniors, up to the age of 20, and youths, up to 17, men's and women's teams coming in for competition today and Friday. Among the sliders of the 12 nations scheduled to compete is Bountiful native, 18-year old Trent Matheson.
"It is nice to be back home," Matheson said. "With most of the competitions over in Europe, this is a nice chance for a lot of my friends and family to get a chance to see me race. I am hoping to see a lot of people there cheering me on."
Matheson got involved in the sport about five years ago when he went to a Verizon Slider Search venue they had here in Utah. He was fairly successful, and five years later he is on the brink of breaking into the big time. He was a silver medalist in the Youth National Championships in 2006, and finished fourth in the overall Youth World Cup that year. The going has been a little tougher since making the jump to the junior circuit. He has finished 37th, 13th, 12th and 14th in races leading up to the home event.
"It has gone all right. I have really messed up a couple of races, but overall, it has been a pretty good season," said Matheson. "I am still trying to improve my start. It is definitely my weakest part."
It is easier said than done in trying to keep relaxed. It can be unnerving traveling over 80 mph just inches off the ice. And the track in Utah is renowned at being one of the fastest on the circuit.
"It is the fastest in the world. There isn't another one where you can get that kind of speed," added Matheson. "Besides having a little extra pressure to perform well being at home, it is a little bit scarier at that speed. If you mess up, you can hit the wall a little harder, or do something even worse."
Matheson said he spends between six and eight hours daily nearly seven days a week doing some type of training for his sport. He slides around three hours every day, and then does some other type of lifting, running or sled work. Along with the physical tolls, Matheson said it also gets rather grueling being on the road for long periods and may have missed some of the usual things in a teenagers life while he was attending Woods Cross High School.
"I can spend up to two months at a time over in Europe and traveling," he said. "I bet out of the three years you spend in high school, I probably missed out on one and a half years of it."
He may have sacrificed much of his free time and certainly some of the normal hanging out that other youth get to enjoy, but that is just fine for the slider.
"It is a lot of time, but when you come down and know you have done your best, it is all worth it," Matheson concluded.Racing begins today with the team competition, youth A women and junior women's singles races, and the doubles. The youth A men and junior men's singles races will be held on Friday.