Luge Canada

Luge in Moffats' blood.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Canwest News Service

Calgary brothers Chris and Mike Moffat briefly left the luge, but it's fair to say that the luge never left the Moffats.

Both of them were Olympians in 2002, but Mike retired from the sport to earn a bachelor of justice degree and was employed as a case worker at a Calgary halfway house. Chris worked in construction, while also taking a kinesiology course at Calgary's Mount Royal University.

The sport first drew Chris, 30, back in. He was asked to coach Canada's junior team and one winter's day while with the squad in Igls, Austria, a notion came to him.

He picked up the phone and dialed his brother.

"Do you want to do doubles luge?" Chris asked Mike. Both brothers had competed in doubles before, but with different partners.

They decided to give it a go beginning in 2005 and at the Winter Olympics in Whistler, B.C., hope to come home with a medal.

Singles luge is among the least-understood sports in North America, but doubles luge tends to leave the unfamiliar entirely puzzled. When teams are assembled, the bigger of the two men goes on top. The bottom slider uses his shoulders to control the sled and basically rides blind. The top man uses his feet to help steer.

"I was terrified," Chris recalled of the first time the brothers slid in tandem together in 2005. "I almost crapped my pants."

That news was somewhat disconcerting to Mike, 27, since he's the brother situated in the lower bunk on the luge, though he noted there are advantages for him as well. "If you are sliding at Whistler and you tip over, it's a good place to be, because I don't touch the ice as much as he does," Mike said.

There's an intricate technical precision to their movements, though to the untrained eye, it's barely noticeable.

"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."

Canada has never won a luge medal at the Winter Games, but the Moffats finish steadily in the top 10 on the World Cup circuit. Chris and partner Eric Pothier recorded Canada's best-ever Olympic result, a fifth at Salt Lake City in 2002.

A hand injury to Chris slowed their progress last season, but this year, it's been smooth sailing for the pair. "We're right there, ready to break through," Mike said.

The biggest problem facing the Moffats is that their best event isn't an Olympic event. They've recorded three podium finishes, including a win, in World Cup team relay competition this season.

"It's too bad that it wasn't put in for the Whistler games, because it's something fresh and new and cutting edge and not many sports have something like that," Chris said.

The Moffats race the doubles portion of the event that sees a men's and women's luger, as well as a doubles team, start from the doubles position and be required to hit an electronic timing pad at the finish line to begin a countdown for the next luger.