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Looking for Olympians: USA Luge Slider Search stops in New Berlin

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USA Luge Slider Search

NEW BERLIN -- Could a hill in New Berlin, during the summer be the starting point for a winter Olympic athlete? That's the hope of a program that recently stopped there.

"We are hoping the kids will have fun today, but for us we are hoping to find the Olympic teams of the future," said US Junior National Luge Coach, Fred Zimny.

A soap box derby track transformed for a weekend.

USA Luge Slider Search

"So instead of waiting for the kids to come to luge, we bring the luge to them," Zimny said.

It's a USA Luge Slider Search, a series of clinics with sleds on wheels in the summer to find national team member Olympians.

"It's how we introduce the sport of luge to kids," said Zimny.

Fred Zimny

There are only two luge courses in the United States, so eight clinics take part across the country to find athletes.

"It's a very facility-driven sport but just like any activity, kids love what they love, you know, what kid doesn't want to lay down on something with wheels on it and go down hill? And this is just kind of taking that to the next level," said Zimny.

The search clinics have been going on for nearly 30 years with a lot of success.

USA Luge Slider Search

"Back in 2014, in Sochi in the last Olympic games, seven of the 10 athletes that were on that team started on a sliders search just like these kids are starting today," Zimny said.

One search story comes from a current instructor, Aidan Kelly, who went to a slider search in 2007.

USA Luge Slider Search

"I used to skateboard and do all kinds of stuff that my mom didn't want me to do and this seemed like it would make her a bit nervous so came out, tried out, a few months later I was invited up to Lake Placid to go to a screening camp and from there I made our junior development team, and nine years later I was able to make the 2014 Olympic team," said Aidan.

USA Luge Slider Search

What made the sport so appealing to Aidan ten years ago, is the same thing that has kids trying it today.

"The speed," said ten-year-old Brock Bartol. "One of the coaches I heard say it went about 25 miles-an-hour from the top of the sled."

"I used to skateboard and long board and do all kinds of stuff that would make me go fast and nothing was the same as laying three inches from the ground and steering a sled as fast as you possibly can," Aidan said.

While speed is the appeal, instructors make sure the kids know how to control the sled.

"I learned to turn with a luge sled," said Bartol. "If you want to turn left you need to push on these rudders with your right foot push down with your left shoulder."

USA Luge Slider Search

"It's getting the kids introduced into the way that the sled's steer and how you lay down on them, really what aerodynamic position is," Aidan said.

Basic instructors, with the hope of sparking a passion.

USA Luge Slider Search

"Some kids love soccer, some kids love go-kart racing and some kids are going to love luge. So we bring it to their backyard get them on the wheel sleds and hopefully bring them back in the winter time," Zimny said.

As part of the clinic, the kids also take part in a series of physical tests. Any kid selected to move on is invited to a three-day luge screening camp this winter at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York.

USA Luge Slider Search

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