Luge Canada

Brothers don't mind the slow lane, at least for now

The Globe and Mail
By Allan Maki, The Globe and Mail Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009 9:43 PM ET

This is what Chris and Mike Moffat insist they need: quality time with their sled on a track where hitting a top speed of 100 kilometres an hour is considered a leisurely slide in the park.

That's not the case at Whistler, B.C., where one trip to the 2010 Olympic sliding centre is enough to scare the Spandex off even the most accomplished luger.

Widely hailed as the fastest track on the planet, Whistler can launch a luger at speeds up to 153 kilometres an hour, which is why the Moffats and the rest of the Canadian luge team have come to Canada Olympic Park here.

Not only are the athletes using tomorrow's selection race at Olympic Park to lock in their 2009-2010 World Cup spot, they've come to fine-tune their preparations for the Olympics with a bit of easy riding.

"This track [built for the 1988 Winter Olympics] especially slows things down," explained Chris, 30, the older brother in the Moffats' doubles tandem.

"Whistler comes at you like a freight train. Here we can work on some things and get comfortable in our sleds."

"We work on technique," added Mike, 27, who gets to ride blind as the low man on the sled. "We have new sleds and [at Olympic Park] we can get in three runs that are almost identical. ... That helps us get better."

Getting better in time for Vancouver has been the Moffats' mantra since they opted to slide together after a three-year absence from the sport. In 2002, Mike had quit to earn a bachelor of justice degree and was employed as a case worker at a Calgary half-way house.

Chris toiled in construction and was taking a kinesiology course at Mount Royal University here.

Asked to coach the national junior luge team, Chris accepted. He said he was with the team in Igls, Austria, one day when his brother called and asked, "Do you want to do doubles luge?" The brothers had competed in doubles before but with different partners.

Racing together in a shared bid to see how far and how fast they could go was enough to fire up their competitive spirit.

"I don't remember making that call," said Mike, who acknowledged he missed the action the longer he was away from it. As for Chris, he knew immediately the brothers had something, but it needed work.

"I was terrified," Chris said of the first time the brothers competed together in 2005. "I almost crapped my pants."

Not welcome news for the guy on the bottom, right? "No," Mike answered with a laugh.

Within quick order, the Moffats strung together three top-eight World Cup finishes and earned their ticket to the 2006 Turin Olympics.

They placed ninth there. At the 2009 world championship in Lake Placid, N.Y., they were 10th. To ensure their best possible showing in Whistler, the Moffats have pushed themselves to be physically, technically sound.

"This summer I worked out hard from the beginning of April to Aug. 15," Mike said. "It was five days a week, six to eight hours a day."

"I did a lot of road biking," Chris said.

"After training I'd get on a bike and ride to Cochrane [west of Calgary] and back. That's about 60, 70 kilometres round trip."

The brothers are of the same mind when it comes to what makes their partnership go. Chris compared two-man luge to a Fire Department ladder truck, with a driver up front and a driver in the back. It takes both of them, in sync, to navigate the most direct way.

"When we go into a curve, Mike supports the top of my shoulders," Chris said.

"He can't see. But we roll and there's the timing of the rolls based on my movements. He supports me through the curves.

"Our movements are so small. It may look like we're just lying there but we're not."

The brothers also balance one another's personality. Chris is the leader with the technical know-how. Mike is all about passion and efficiency - commodities the Moffats will need when the Olympics begin in February.

"Every year there are small improvements with the sleds so you really have to know how they respond," Mike explained.

"[This year] we have new coaches, new ways of getting better. We're excited and we're getting there."

Comfortably, so they can be Whistler fast when it counts.