ISHPEMING - The Upper Peninsula Luge Club of Negaunee's four top athletes - Leisel Demeuse, 16, Derek Rogers, 15, Daryn Carter, 15, and Derek Carter, 15 - are headed to Europe today to compete in the 19th Annual World Championships in Natural Track Luge in Italy.
Negaunee has the only natural luge track in the country, and this will be the first time in seven years that the U.P. Luge Club will have sliders competing in a world tournamen. Coach Tammy Wills said she hopes this is the start of yearly trips.
"It's hard to develop your skills when this is the only track in the country, because you get to know and the corners and there's only so much challenge you get from sliding on the same track," Wills said. "So this is something I hope to see ongoing to give these athletes more experience."
Liesel Demeuse, 16, practices sliding Thursday at Lucy Hill Natural Luge Track in Negaunee. Demeuse is one of four going to Europe to represent the U.S. in the World Championships. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
According to Wills, the United States Luge Association was approached by the Federation Internationale De Luge De Course (FIL) this fall to sponsor a team from the United States to travel to Europe to train and compete in the World Championships. The FIL confirmed the club's travel plans the day before Thanksgiving.
"I would like to see (the athletes) come back motivated enough to be excited enough to go back next year and to motivate our younger athletes," Wills said.
The athletes and coach will fly into Munich, Germany, and from there travel to Vls am Schlern, where they will train and get to see their first international competition.
"I think they can learn a lot from just viewing what the top athletes are doing, their position on the sled and what lines they take," Wills said. "There will be a lot of opportunities for them them to talk with other athletes and other coaches. It's a very supportive atmosphere over there, so they will have many people from many countries looking out for them and giving them pointers."
Then, on Jan. 23, the young competitors will leave for Deutschnofen, Italy, where they will compete in the World Championships.
Demeuse, a sophomore at Marquette Senior High School, has been doing natural luge for 12 years now and she said she looking forward to seeing all the different athletes, tracks and seeing how the other sliders slide.
"I want to try to learn different ways to do things and how they do things over there," Demeuse said.
This is Demeuse's first competition against sliders that aren't from the U.P. Luge Club. In order to train for the competition, she said she's been going out to Lucy Hill at every opportunity.
"I usually only come out (to the hill) two or three times in a week, but I've been trying to come out every day before we leave," Demeuse said.
Demeuse was picked to go to the European tournament because she finished in the top four last year.
"I'm really excited for the the competition," Demeuse said.
The World Championship takes place Jan. 25 through the Jan. 27. Wills and the athletes will be returning Jan. 29.
"I'm excited for others to see the kids and see how hard they've been working," Wills said.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org