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Slade slides back to Lillehammer

24 December 2015

LUGE: Trying a winter Olympic sport that you can’t train for in Australia and then nine months later securing selection for the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games is nothing short of remarkable.

This is what 15-year-old Beth Slade from Caves Beach near Newcastle has achieved in the dangerous sliding sport of Luge. She has now been officially selected to represent Australia in Norway from 12-21 February.

“I’m really excited and very proud to be able to represent Australia in a sport that I’ve only started this year,” Slade said.

After getting a brief taste for the sport in March, Slade headed to Europe in early October for a training and competition tour needing to achieve points in at least three of the four Junior World Cup competitions to give herself a chance of being amongst the top 20 athletes to qualify for the Games.

“After my first race when I crashed I didn’t think that I could actually qualify but I kept trying and trying and I got the points in the next three competitions,” Slade explained.

A chance conversation at a family gathering took Slade from the familiar surrounds of the beach and netball court to man-made ice tracks across the northern hemisphere.

“Hannah (Campbell-Pegg, dual Olympian) is a good family friend of ours and she was saying that she was looking for a youth athlete to develop to try to qualify for Lillehammer. I said ‘I’ll give it a go’ and a few months later I was in Lake Placid learning to slide.”

Slade was 14 when she travelled with Campbell-Pegg to the United States for her first attempt at the sport. Slowly she moved further and further up the track and she became familiar with the sport.

Back home in Australia she continued to work on her strength and fitness and started plotting the ambitious qualification task across Europe.

From being a surf lifesaving champion and netballer to a sport that involves steering a sled, while lying on your back, down a steep iced over water slide is hard to imagine. And for most people way too scary to attempt.

“I never thought of myself as a daredevil but I like the speed and rush. The hardest thing is the track itself and knowing how hard to steer it. I get really nervous before each race because I am so new and I really don’t know what to expect.”

Luge is providing Slade the opportunity to experience the world and challenge herself. She is developing new confidence from her improvement on the track.

“When you complete a run it gives you have a really good energy,” Slade explained. “It’s really hard so it gives you a good confidence to tell you that you can do things. If I can hurl down a mountain at 105 kilometres an hour then you feel like you can do almost anything.”

Slade will stay in Australia for the next five weeks doing a lot of gym work, cardio and watching vision of the Lillehammer track and her runs from World Cup 1 where she crashed to help her familiarise herself with the track you will look to conquer at the Youth Olympic Games.

Along with luge, Australia is looking to take a team of approximately 14 athletes across the disciplines of alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, ice hockey (skills challenge), luge, short track speed skating and snowboard.

The Lillehammer Games will be the second Winter Youth Olympic Games, following on from Innsbruck in 2012. The 2016 version will include many of the venues from the Winter Games in 1994 with 1,100 young athletes from 70 nations competing in 70 events. It will be a competition and education experience the athletes will never forget.

Andrew Reid

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