Virus forcing USA Luge to skip first half of World Cup slate

USA Luge won’t compete in World Cup events until at least January, saying Monday that it will sit out the first four race weekends of this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Americans won’t slide in the season opener at Igls, Austria, on Nov. 28 and 29, then will also sit out races the next three weekends on a trio of German tracks — Altenberg, Oberhof and Winterberg.

USA Luge’s decision means no American sliders in any sport — luge, bobsled or skeleton — will be sliding in any major international race until at least early 2021. USA Bobsled and Skeleton announced last week that it is skipping the first half of its World Cup season because of travel and health concerns.

“Ever since this pandemic broke, we have maintained a commitment to the safety of everyone in the organization, with the athletes at the top of that list,” USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy said. “We are a group that’s geared and motivated by racing, so to take this action is disappointing.”

USA Luge won 11 World Cup medals last season. It had nine top-two finishes; only Germany and Russia had more.

This move only adds to a disjointed sliding season, one in which the world championships for luge were moved out of Whistler, Canada, because of virus concerns, as were the bobsled and skeleton world championships that were to take place in Lake Placid, New York. A luge World Cup was moved out of Lake Placid as well, and Park City, Utah, lost its planned bobsled-skeleton World Cup weekend.

“We believe that staying in the U.S. until the end of the calendar year is our safest course of action,” Leahy said.

USA Luge said it plans to train on home ice in November and December, with seeding races and the national championships to be decided before the Christmas break. Plans, as of now, have the team flying to Europe in late December.

“This is certainly not the schedule that we envisioned, but it’s one that has been thrust upon us,” USA Luge coach Robert Fegg said.

For now, the Americans plan to compete in the two most significant luge competitions of the season — the world championships in Koenigssee, Germany, at the end of January, and February’s World Cup race and training week at the track newly built in China for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. That will be the Americans’ first look at the next Olympic track.

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