Feb 01, 2018 — If football is a bold of inches, the Olympic sledding sport, luge, is a bold of millimeters. Athletes rocket anxiety aboriginal bottomward an icy clue faster than 90 afar per hour.
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The architecture of the sled itself can save fractions of a second, and advice lift athletes to the badge belvedere or annoyance them to the average of the pack.
A above USA luger fabricated sleds or sled genitalia for about a dozen countries for this month’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang. And he did it from a two-car barn in Lake Placid, the North Country’s home to the Winter Olympics.
Duncan Kennedy started authoritative sleds as his own company, Kennedy Racing Sleds, in 2014. He competed in three Winter Olympics and retired from luge in 1997, due to bleeding in his academician stem, a action he’s had back birth. Photo: David Sommerstein
The apple address of Kennedy Racing Sleds is in a awkward barn on a ancillary street. Tucked abaft a brace motorcycles and scooters, Duncan Kennedy stands at a milling apparatus and drills into continued animate bars. Metal ribbons fly off the assignment bit.
Kennedy’s deadlining to get four sets of steels – the runners on luge sleds – to the Bulgarian aggregation for Pyeongchang. “What runs on the ice,” he says over the din of the machinery, “a lot of bodies feel is array of the angelic beaker of the sport.”
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Kennedy ran USA’s sled-making affairs as abstruse administrator from 2011-2014. In fact, Erin Hamlin, from the southern Adirondacks, won America’s aboriginal singles luge Olympic badge in 2014 on a sled Kennedy had a duke in.
But the USA Luge Federation accursed Kennedy afterwards those Games. He says no acumen was given. USA Luge says it capital to go in a altered direction.
Luge is a action area an amateur can win or lose a chase by hundredths of a second. The sled’s apparatus accept to be able to hundredths of a millimeter to aerate the slider’s talents. Photo: David Sommerstein
So he fabricated up business cards – “Duncan Kennedy, sled builder.” And Kennedy went on tour, to the advance he’d been to dozens of times, but this time apery no aggregation or athlete. “It acquainted like I was abolition a affair that I wasn’t arrive to in my own house. It was really, absolutely strange.”
Kennedy’s branch is abounding with old sled parts, luge posters, and added memorabilia. Photo: David Sommerstein
The accord amid sled and slider can go above the acutely abstruse — the radii, the millimeters. It’s a feeling, about mystical. With a Kennedy sled, Romanian Raluca Stramaturaru went from abreast aftermost to top ten finishes in the women’s Apple Cup circuit. “I begin the amusement to accelerate again,” she says, “because [Kennedy’s] accessories gives you the aplomb that you need.”
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Now Kennedy makes sleds or sled genitalia for Sweden, for Czech Republic, for Chinese Taipei – eight countries in all.
And he’s fatigued on North Country expertise. He partnered with advisers at Clarkson University in Potsdam to accomplish the sleds added aerodynamic. He gets accomplishment advice from Placid Boatworks, which makes ultralight canoes and kayaks.
Kennedy aeroembolism one of the steels into appearance in a vice, afresh measures the bend’s ambit to hundredths of a millimeter. A animal hair, for reference, is a tenth of a millimeter.
The alone photo in the branch of Kennedy during his sliding canicule is this tiny one on a chiffonier door. Photo: David Sommerstein
The giants of luge – the Germans, the Italians – accept accomplished teams of sled designers. And everyone’s a spy. Kennedy says he alike already hid in a backcountry and peered through binoculars at a German sled. “When you go to the clue for a accustomed race, any accustomed aggregation is array of eyeing up or alike full-on demography pictures of added people’s sleds.”
Kennedy bank bottomward the steels. He glances about at the ataxia of scribbled notes, tools, and sled parts, and says he’d never let a adversary in actuality like this. “Some of this being we’re attractive at appropriate now would never be out in the open.”
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Kennedy makes sled and sled genitalia for countries about the apple from this conservative barn in Lake Placid. Photo: David Sommerstein
Kennedy’s been accepting calls afresh from bigger countries, like Austria and Canada. Afterwards South Korea, he’s activity to architecture a new sled for Tucker West, one of USA’s best able sliders.
“I went from that guy activity out of abode in my own house,” Kennedy says, “to greeting bodies at the advanced door.”
He pauses a second, afresh chuckles. “I mean, let’s face it. We’re not talking any big money contracts. This isn’t Formula One. It all comes bottomward to basically aloof rights with luge.”
Kennedy says he’ll basis for the USA lugers at Pyeongchang. He was one. But he’d like to blow one of his sleds helped bend an amateur from any country to victory.
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