Negotiating luge dream is slippery challenge

December 18, 2005|By RICK MAESE

Lake Placid, N.Y. -- Villains in American sport date back at least 100 years when scoundrels such as Ty Cobb roamed the basepaths as though hunting season had just begun. Later, we had the Raiders, the Pistons, the hockey goon and just about any Soviet athlete during the Cold War.

s blog at baltimoresun.com/maeseblog

Point after -- Rick Maese

The luge looks like a lot of fun, doesn't it? It's like when you were younger and you went down a twisty slide at the park. Only this slide is made of ice. And it's highly probable that you'll suffer permanent injury.

Lake Placid's track officials agreed to send me down on a modified sled called a luge rocket after yesterday's World Cup competition. The rocket is like the high-performance sled used in Olympic competition, except there's a resting place for your feet, a cage over your head and the sides of the sled curve up, making it tougher to fall out, I was told.

"It's like a casket on ice," they said.

They pushed me out of the chute and as I approached the first turn, I relinquished my Olympics dream. I wanted out, but there was no stopping.

Imagine yourself driving down a narrow, icy highway. The gas pedal is floored, and you have no steering wheel. You can taste your lunch coming around Whiteface Turn, and by Devil's Highway you're negotiating your soul for the opportunity to be upright just once more.

My sled reached nearly 50 mph. I shook death's hand at least three times. It took 1 minute, 1.016 seconds to make it down. (I was counting.)

It's not a track record, but it is my personal best. And because I will never again lie in one those death sleds, I can guarantee you it'll remain my personal best for a long time to come.

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