RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – While training on the luge, Ridgefield’s Tucker West spends much of his time focusing on the start of his icy race. That attention to detail landed the 18-year-old a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team headed for Sochi in February.
West was selected Saturday as the youngest member of the delegation for the United States on luge, a sliding sport with the rider on his back, heading feet first down an icy track. Tucker got his start in the sport when his father, Brett, built a luge track in the family’s Ridgefield backyard after the 2002 Olympics.
“The start has been a key role to my success in luge,’’ said West, a three-time USA Luge start champion. “There’s a lot of technique. You need strength and power to accelerate the slide. It’s the only two seconds you can accelerate the slide by pushing it, but it can make all the difference in the world.”
West graduated in June as an honor student at National Sports Academy High in Lake Placid, N.Y. He attended public schools in Ridgefield until ninth grade.
West said he got his start in luge after watching the games in Salt Lake City. “We got this grand idea to make this track in your backyard,’’ he said. “It’s this big wooden monstrosity that’s still in our backyard. USA Luge sent their marketing director to check it out, and then they invited us up to Lake Placid. I was training there for two years with the Adirondack Luge Club and then made the national team.”
A story in The News-Times in 2004 said the luge track was built by the Wests for a winter carnival for Tucker’s Cub Scout pack. “This is just one of his crazy ideas,’’ Tucker said then.
West won a silver medal at the 2011 Junior World Cup and a team relay gold medal in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games. He also won a bronze medal with the Junior World Cup four-member relay team earlier this year. A video of one of West's runs at the 2013 FIL Luge World Cup is online.
West played baseball and soccer growing up in Ridgefield, but nothing grabbed his interest until he started flying down the luge track. “The speed, the perfection that goes into it,’’ he said. “Everything has to be perfect right down to the last centimeter. I love everything about it.”
West will spend the holidays at home before heading to a competition in Germany. Luge starts Feb. 8 and is one of the first events in the Olympics.
“My goal was to make the 2018 Olympics,’’ West said. “This is kind of shocking. Over the last two years, my speed has been getting better. I’m looking forward to everything and enjoying the whole experience. The opening ceremonies, the team, the competition, and just being part of Team USA.”