Luge Canada

Seitz living proof of Olympic legacy

Paul Magrini, Calgary HeraldFor Tyler Seitz, the luge is a bed-and-breakfast sport. How else can he explain a training regimen which essentially takes up every waking minute of his day?

From the time his feet hit the bedroom floor, the 23-year-old member of the Canadian national luge team enters a daily routine consisting of workouts, equipment preparation, mental training and actual sliding runs.

When completed, his remaining energy usually carries toward the nearest pillow -- to rest for the next day of more of the same.

"It's endless," said Seitz on Wednesday. "It takes a bit out of you every once in a while, but that's the way it has to be."

A luger for 12 years, the Calgary native knew exactly what he was getting into as early as Grade 5 when he participated in a beginner's program at Canada Olympic Park. From there, intrigue fostered a
full-time career on an icy rocket and the realization of the sacrifices required to be an Olympian.

"(The training) and travel can wear on a guy pretty quick," said Seitz, who estimates his travel time alone since the season's start in October to be close to 140 hours.

Although several other examples already exist in Calgary, Seitz is considered to be tangible proof of the legacy left behind by the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

As an 11-year-old boy, he was one of many who attended the event's luge competition along the COP track. A decade later, he represented Canada at the Nagano Winter Olympic Games. Ironically, he qualified for the 1998 event with a solid, pressure-filled run on his home track at COP -- his last competitive race in these parts.

Now considered to be the veteran member of the young Canadian team, Seitz officially returns home today to begin competition in the senior men's event at the Viessmann World Cup this weekend.

The Canadian stop on the tour will involve the world's top lugers in men's and women's singles, and men's two-man doubles. Today's training runs were set for this morning. Competition begins on Friday
and concludes Sunday.

Over his short career, Seitz has often met success in luge head-on. Last year, he finished first in the senior Canadian championships and Nations Cup to go along with two top-20 placings at the senior World championships (13th) and World Cup (16th).

But, so far this season, his mettle has been tested through four European events in what he calls "a really big struggle" on the track.

"I've always been a good racer with a rock solid head," he said. "This year, I've made a few mistakes in races. It's a little groove I got into and I've got to try to help myself out of it."

Might some home cooking this week be the remedy?

"I'm really looking forward to this race," said the Bishop Carroll High School graduate. "This is a track for me. It's a glider's track and it's my home track. I'm really comfortable here."

Those close to Seitz believe his progress will continue as he strives for more consistency in the sport.

"Tyler has had some good runs and some bad runs," said Canadian coach Andre Benoit.

"He's so close (to being) good, it's frustrating for him. But in a way, that's forced him to push his (limits)."

For most Canadians, sliding down a frozen incline on a toboggan is a right of birth. Whether the choice of craft is a Crazy Carpet or Super Slider Snow Skates, the experience can be both thrilling and

And despite some recent competitive disappointments, those same emotions are the backbone to the attraction of luge for Seitz, although his snowy overpass run can reach speeds in excess of 135 kilometres per hour.

"I just love everything about it," said Seitz, whose brother, Tracy, is the track manager at the recently completed bobsleigh/luge/skeleton run in Salt Lake City -- the site of the 2002 Olympic Games.

"The toughest part is controlling your fear and controlling your body. When you're going that fast, you're body automatically wants to tense up. You do get scared, it's natural."

The knack is to strike a quick balance between the two during a luge run. It's a factor that can mean first or frustration.

"The start is explosive and aggressive," he said. "As soon as you lay down, you have to turn off (those aggressions) and relax. You have to start thinking clearly and then steer through the course."

Training begins today at 9 a.m. and continues through 2:30 p.m.

Reprinted with permission from The Calgary Herald
Copyright (c) 1999 The Calgary Herald New Media