Sports

February 21, 2014

Military training helps Soldier-athletes conquer luge challenges

U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program lugers Sgt. Matt Mortensen (left) and Sgt. Preston Griffall (right) indicate they are ready for Olympic doubles competition Feb. 12 at Sanki Sliding Centre in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. They said military training helped them develop teamwork and trust needed to
overcome the dangerous aspects of luge. The Army WCAP duo finished 14th in luge doubles at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs

SOCHI, Russia – When racing blindly down the mountain at 80 miles per hour, trust and teamwork are crucial for two Soldier-athletes who attribute their resilience in the sport of luge to military training.

In luge doubles, the athlete in contact with the small sled is almost completely covered by his partner and has limited visibility of the course, said Utah National Guard Sgt. Preston Griffall of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. The two-time Olympian lays flat on his back on the sled while New York Army National Guard Sgt. Matt Mortensen, situated directly atop Griffall, helps steer the sled by signaling upcoming curves via body movements.

“You have to become one on the sled,” Griffall said. “You have to know how your teammate is going to react — or not react — to a particular problem.”

Griffall and Mortensen discussed teamwork and Army training during a Team USA Olympic luge doubles press conference earlier this week. They said military training helped them conquer the “mental challenges” of luge.

Luge is considered one of the most dangerous Olympic sports because, even in singles competition, athletes lay on their back with eyes pointed skyward. At the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, an athlete died from an accident during luge training. Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia lost control of his sled in a turn near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Centre and flew over the track wall and hit a steel pole.

The 16 curves of Sanki Sliding Center include a “switchback hairpin bend” near the top of the luge course that architects said was designed to send sleds into a “rapid ricochet” in Turn 5. The next two turns combine to form an “S-shaped snake” known as “the labyrinth.”

Although the new track has three uphill turns to slow the sleds, many of the luge competitors — including Griffall and Mortensen — encountered problems skidding out of Turn 5. In the second heat of doubles competition, they skidded after bumping the wall exiting Turn 5. The miscue was enough to drop them into 14th place with a combined time of 1 minute, 41.703 seconds.

“The second run was quite the wild ride,” Griffall said. “There were a lot of problems. This track rewards perfection. We did not have perfection.”

Luge doubles is an extremely challenging sport. Griffall explained that most luge athletes begin by competing in singles, and some progress to doubles.

U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Soldiers Sgt. Matt Mortensen (top) and Sgt. Preston Griffall are clocked at 80 miles per hour on a run of 51.660 seconds during Olympic luge doubles training Feb. 10 at Sanki Sliding Centre in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

“Doubles, itself, takes a lot of experience and a lot of working together,” said Griffall, 29, of Salt Lake City.

He and Mortensen have been working together for eight years. Both have been members of the national luge team since 2005.

“I do most of the driving,” said Mortensen, who is positioned on top. “Since I can see, I have more control.”

Yet, he admits that his partner is instrumental in turning the sled.

“The bottom guy is the one in contact with the sled,” said Mortensen, 28, of Huntington Station, N.Y. “I don’t have any direct feeling with the sled. Preston is really responsible for making sure he is right with his body weight for the curves. He’ll roll back and straighten the sled out every corner.”

Doubles is also more exhilarating because there’s a teammate to share the challenges and achievements, said Mortensen. “It feels like you’re accomplishing so much more.”

Luge doubles is a mental challenge, much like the Army’s basic combat training, Griffall said.

“Going through basic training is probably 95 percent mental,” Griffall said, explaining that it’s a mental challenge to stay focused when sometimes training from 4 a.m. to midnight. He added that it takes discipline and determination to battle on without much sleep.

In luge, the start is all physical,” Griffall said, “but once you lay down on the sled and you’re navigating the sled down the track, it becomes all mental. You have to be extremely focused and stay on your game, because it’s fast.

“Everything is happening in the blink of an eye.”

Mortensen said the communication skills he learned in the Army also help him excel at luge.

The communication is challenging, Mortensen said, because on the track verbal communication is nearly impossible because of wind noise. There’s no time for talking, even if words could be heard. Communication must be made by subtle movements, he stressed, such as a tilt of the head.

The Soldiers said being part of the Army and National Guard has been helpful in developing resilience, as well. That resilience has helped them bounce back after disappointing races, such as their 14th-place Olympic finish on Feb. 12, to focus on future challenges.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

VA implements new online tool for military members, Families, transitioning out

In conjunction with the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program, the new Veterans Employment Center, or VEC, is the federal government’s single authoritative online resource for connecting transitioning service members, veterans and their Families to meaningful career opportunities. The VEC is the first government-wide product that brings together a reputable cadre of public and...
 
 

ACAP has new name, now Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program

As part of the Soldier for Life Program that was introduced last year, the Army Career and Alumni Program, or ACAP, has changed names to the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program, effective immediately. In an effort to better reflect the new direction of Army transition with the Soldier for Life Program, Army Chief...
 
 
Courtesy Photo

Army has ally in Natick lab

Courtesy Photo Secretary of the Army John McHugh, left, learns about the hypobaric chamber at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine during a March 15, 2012, visit to Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massach...
 

 

Monsoon start means break from hot weather — keep safety in mind this summer

In Arizona, as in other regions of the world including India and Thailand, we experience a monsoon, a season of high temperatures, high winds, and high moisture, resulting in potentially deadly weather. The term “monsoon” comes from the Arabic “mausim,” meaning “season” or “wind shift.” Even though rain doesn’t typically begin in the southern Arizona...
 
 

Melanoma – silent but deadly

Do you love having fun in the sun? If you do, it is essential you protect your skin from exposure to harmful sun rays known to cause skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, more...
 
 

Civilian of the Month

Rick Davis Agency: Engineer & Instrumentation Branch within Intelligence Electronic Warfare Test Directorate, U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground Position and duties: Electronic technician; provides technical support for testing new Army Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Systems. AISRS does all operational testing here for the military intelligence systems by conducting a test and r...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin