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What It's Like To Fly Down Ice At 85 MPH

Long Island Native Competing In Olympic Luge Competition

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WNYC

At speeds of 85 miles an hour, it’ll take Matthew Mortensen and his luge partner a matter of seconds to get down the course on Wednesday. But it took the Long Island native years of work and sacrifice to make it to Sochi.

“I’ve been literally working toward a single goal for 16 years and to get that goal is such an incredible feeling,” Mortensen said in a phone interview from the athlete’s lounge in the Olympic village.

Mortensen started training on the luge when he was 12 — giving up a normal childhood for the sport. He spent months away from his Huntington Station home, training and traveling for meets. He had to fax homework assignments from around the world for his teachers back home.

It was also a commitment for his family. Sometimes his parents would drive the five and a half hours to Lake Placid to drop Mortensen off for training and drive back the same day “so that they wouldn’t miss any work because they really couldn’t afford to,” he said.

His grandparents often traveled with Mortensen because his parents had six other kids to take care of.

Hear Mortensen describe how he flies down the ice at nearly 90 miles per hour.

The dedication paid off and Matt Mortensen became a top luger. Four years ago he missed out on the Olympics by about a tenth of a second.

The loss pushed Mortensen to train even harder. He joined the Army’s World Class Athlete Program so he could focus on his sport full time.

In December, Mortensen and his doubles partner, Preston Griffall, qualified for the Olympics. Mortensen’s parents, grandmother and girlfriend made the trip to Sochi to cheer them on.

Mortensen and Griffall raced Wednesday. They came in 14th place.

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