NORTH HUDSON — Zipping down an icy course at close to 90 m.p.h. may be the easy part, so luger Justin Wachowski’s friends and family are pitching in to handle the tough finances.
Wachowski is leaving on Sunday for Park City, Utah for luge training. The hope is after the Junior World Championships on Jan. 15 and 16, Wachowski and his teammate will be leaving for the second leg of the tour.
“As you probably know, we are the only nation that does not support our athletes, as the athletes and parents are responsible for funding. Dan (his father) and I just purchased his tickets for his flight from Albany on Sunday morning to Salt Lake City, where another parent will pick him up,” his mother, Sally Wachowski, said. “Unlike in Lake Placid, there is no athlete housing there, so Justin will be staying at his teammate’s (Patrick Edmunds) home. Dan and I are in full swing fund-raising for him at this point.”
Justin’s father, Dan Wachowski, beams. “I couldn’t be more proud of him for what he is doing. You see all these other people doing things, but you look at your kid, what he has accomplished. It’s all about him with his drive and ambition. He is knocking it out of the park.”
“I am so proud of Justin’s dedication, determination and drive,” she said. “He has become an amazing young adult who surprises me at every turn. I am in awe when I watch him and his teammates race down that mountain at unbelievable speeds. To know that these young adults are the future Olympic contenders and how much time they dedicate to their training is spectacular. They work tirelessly from 7 in the morning until 8 or later at night, depending upon their schedule.”
Justin became interested in luge a little over two years ago.
“They were holding the World Cup in Lake Placid, and my mom took her sixth-grade class to see it. She brought back pictures and a T-shirt with a skeleton racer on it,” he said. “I was 16 at the time. I went online to find out more and saw there was a slider search in Plattsburgh.
“I was chosen to train on the ice in Lake Placid. I slid with a club and won some races, and so I was named for the team while I was in high school.”
Justin, a 2012 graduate from Schroon Lake Central School, hopes to further his education by taking sports physiology classes with a long range goal of working at a sports training center. While in high school, he was the catcher on the varsity baseball team and goalie on the soccer team.
As he is heading through the course, Justin is focused on the event.
“I just go through the memories of what the coaches tell me about the course,” he said. “You do it so many times, it just becomes a habit. You think about nothing until something goes wrong.”
Billed as the, “fastest sport on ice,” speeds can reach 95 m.p.h. down a twisting run that has a vertical drop of 300 feet.
If all goes well in Utah, Justin will to race in Calgary, Alberta and then Oberhof, Germany, followed by Igls, Austria and Winterburg, Germany.
“Dan and I have spent so much time keeping Justin’s feet grounded through elementary and high school where sports were concerned,” Sally said. “He comes from the small town of North Hudson, and Schroon Lake Central is not a big school. Justin always played sports at 110 percent. There is a life lesson when it comes to sports. There are very few that are successful and make it past a Little League trophy or a high school MVP.
“Having a chance to race against world class athletes is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He knows that and is excited to represent the United States of America and his hometown. He treasures every minute of that ice time.”
Justin’s older brother, Chris, is disabled, and according to Sally, “he sometimes finds it difficult to grasp what Justin is doing.
“Chris never liked to go watch Justin do any of his sports. We finally got Chris to go watch Justin practice on Mt. Van Hoevenberg. We were standing on the bridge over the Chicane. You could hear the sled coming, we told Chris, ‘OK, here he comes. Pay attention. He is going to come out from under your feet.’ It was only about three seconds of viewing time before Justin was in turn 17. Chris looks at Dan and says, ‘That’s it?’
“Chris doesn’t fully understand the significance of the racing, but he says, ‘It is my brother’s dream, and I want to help him make it come true because he is my brother and that’s what brothers do.’”
Sally said the family has to cover the costs of flights, lodging and food when Justin travels to races, and they also have to pay for all of his gear.
“If Justin wants to travel, we do the fund-raising,” she said. “We have to come up with creative ideas and rely on community and business support.
“In concert with USA Luge, Justin has an athletic training fund where all donations are deposited. The USA Luge Organization handles all of his finances for him. We are asking businesses and people to donate to his training fund. We are also working on a few fund-raising ideas over the next several weeks to help defray the cost of his current racing season.”
Justin is grateful for the support he has received.
“I want to thank all the people from North Hudson and others, and my parents for being so supportive of my efforts,” he said.
The town of North Hudson Fire Dept is giving a going-away party for Justin at 7 p.m. Friday at the North Hudson Fire House on Route 9.
To donate, send checks made out to “Justin Wachowski Athletic Training Fund,” to USA Luge, 57 Church St., Lake Placid, NY 12946.
Email Alvin Reiner at: