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February 29, 1988 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-29

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Another Olympic Moment

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The last time the Winter
Olympics came to North
America, at Lake Placid, N.Y.,
in 1980, the Soviets had just invaded Af-
ghanistan, U.S. diplomats had just been
taken hostage in Teheran-and Ameri-
cans chanted "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" for their
gold-medal hockey upstarts and speed-
skater Eric Heiden. Gold medals may be
rare for U.S. athletes this year, but the
Olympic thrill will return beginning Feb.
13 in picturesque Calgary, Alberta.
On the Fast Track
The finish line can be the most frighten-
ing part. Swinging out of a 180-degree
curve at almost 80 mph, the rider
struggles to sit up on his small sled, yanks
hard on the runners and, looking very
much like Fred Flintstone braking his
prehistoric Ferrari, digs his heels into the
icy track. Or, as Olympic luger and college
junior Frank Masley puts it after practice
at Lake Placid, "You just keep sliding un-
til you stop."
Easy for him to say.
The cool, calculated nature of lugers
runs counter to their reputations as reck-
less speed demons. American lugers
("luge" is French for sled) long labored in
anonymity, not to mention penury. Bob
Hughes, marketing director for the United
States Luge Association, used to carry a
wallet-size photo of a luger in action so he
could identify the sport for potential do-
nors. "They'd say, 'Oh, that'," he recalls.
But their familiarity could soon increase.
U.S. Olympic lugers this year are finally on
a fast track-in more ways than one.
Masley, 27, has an excellent chance of
finishing in the top 10 at Calgary, which
would be the highest-ever singles finish for
an American Olympic luger. Masley took
up "sliding" after watching it on television
during the 1976 Games. After a two-week
training course and lots of practice, he won
a junior competition and a three-week trip
to European luge tracks. His family and
friends thought it was a whim, Masley re-
calls. "They thought I'd get over it." He
didn't, and went on to win five national
singles titles. Masley now majors in me-
chanical engineering at Philadelphia's
Drexel University, after studying at a com-
munity college and working as a computer
draftsman. Drexel's quarterly co-op sys-
tem allows him to take classes in spring and

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I
I

ALEC PYTLOWANY-SPORTSCHROME
Quadrennial convergence: Outside Calgary, ski lodge lies beneath Olympic Mountain

summer; in fall and winter, Masley com-
bines luging with academic credits by de-
signing and building sleds. This will be his
third and last Olympics, Masley says; he is
determined to graduate next spring.
Lugers have been competing since 1883,
when the first contest was held in Switzer-
land. The winner completed a 2.5-mile
course in just over nine minutes. Luge
has been an Olympic sport since 1964,
and today's sliders whiz through more
than a dozen turns on a 1,000-meter track

(slightly shorter for women) in about 47
seconds. Victories are determined by the
combined time over several runs. (During
the first Olympics competition, lugers
poured hot oil into their hollow sled run-
ners to increase speeds, but heating is no
longer allowed.)
The slider begins by pushing off with his

4

PHOTOS BY NANCIE BATTAGLIA
Like a child on a sled-sort of:
Slider Frank Masley, who
will compete in his third
Olympics, swinging around
curve on the Lake Placid
track at up to 80 mph

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26 NEWSWEEKMON CAMPUS

MARCH 1988

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