Jayson Terdiman didn’t make it to the Beijing Olympics.
His sled did.
A week ago, Terdiman’s hopes of making what would have been his third and final U.S. Olympic team in doubles luge ended in an instant; a crash during a World Cup qualifying race in Sigulda, Latvia ended any chance he and Chris Mazdzer had of making the Beijing Games. The spot they sought wound up getting won by Zack DiGregorio and Sean Hollander, who are now headed to the Olympics for the first time.
And put simply, the sled Terdiman owns is faster than the equipment DiGregorio and Hollander were using. So, he made them an offer they simply couldn’t refuse.
“Just because my journey is over doesn’t mean this show’s going to stop,” Terdiman said Thursday. “I want to give our team the best possibility to be successful. And I know that the sled that I own is the fastest equipment in the United States. It’s proven itself, over and over.”
It’ll have a chance to prove itself again in Beijing next month.
For the next few days, four people — DiGregorio, Hollander, Terdiman and USA Luge coach Robert Fegg — will share a condo in Park City, Utah. Food is being delivered, outsiders are being avoided out of COVID-19 concerns, days will be spent at the 2002 Olympic sliding track for training and nights will be spent with Terdiman teaching the rookies all he can about the sled and how to squeeze every bit of speed they can from their new toy.
Talking about not making the Olympic team still makes Terdiman tear up, especially since that qualifying run in Latvia very well could have been his final competitive slide; he plans on retiring and transitioning into a new role with USA Luge.
But when he was asked to go to Park City and help this week, he didn’t hesitate.
“This is what he does,” Fegg said. “He’s still mourning, there’s no doubt about it. It would be crazy to think he would be over that, absolutely. But at the same time, he puts that aside and is there for those two boys … it’s priceless.”
The first thing that had to be done was making some physical changes to the sled itself, accommodating for differences in height and body types. But Terdiman already had some idea of how that would work; he had Hollander get on the sled this past fall, just to see what the fit would be like.
“Moving forward on Jayson’s sled will give us the best chance,” Hollander said.
DiGregorio and Hollander obviously had some success on the sled they had been using; after all, they made the Olympic team. But they also never felt like they had it completely figured out and honed to their specific needs, so they quickly decided to accept Terdiman’s offer.
“It really shows what kind of human and teammate he is,” DiGregorio said. “He put the team first, 100%. … He’s done more than I could ever imagine and I’m extremely thankful for that. He’s shown his true colors. It’s very, very impressive.”
Terdiman isn’t the only Olympic hopeful to put disappointment aside for a greater good these days. Women’s slider Brittney Arndt, who was one of four women in the mix for three spots on the Olympic team — and wound up being the one who didn’t qualify — is also doing training runs at the Park City track alongside Hollander and DiGregorio this week, doing her part to help them get ready. As an added bonus, she probably knows the Park City track as well as anyone.
“She’s one of the best sliders here in Park City,” DiGregorio said. “There’s not many that will be able to beat her, so it’ll be a great indicator.”
The way Terdiman sees it, he’s only doing what a teammate should.
USA Luge, he insists, is a family. And there have been other selfless examples that he’s benefited from in recent years, such as the decision by Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk to give up their doubles spot in a team relay at the world championships in 2017 to Terdiman and his former partner, Matt Mortensen. A similar move happened this season when Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger gave up their spot in a team relay at the Beijing track to Mazdzer and Terdiman.
Terdiman wound up getting medals in each of those races. He’s hopeful his sacrifice — and his sled — can help the Americans now win an Olympic medal.
“It’s not about the individual. It’s about what’s best for Team USA,” Terdiman said. “This decision, for me, was not a hard one to make because of the culture that we’ve built within the team. It’s something that I’m proud to be a part of. I feel like this is going to be very special and I hope that it pays off for these guys three weeks from now.”
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