Young lugers gain confidence from European experience

Ranfurly's Ben Voice (13, left) and Naseby's Sam Flanagan (14) reflect on their six-week stint in Europe as part of the International Luge Federation development team programme. Photo: Rebecca Nadge
Ranfurly's Ben Voice (13, left) and Naseby's Sam Flanagan (14) reflect on their six-week stint in Europe as part of the International Luge Federation development team programme. Photo: Rebecca Nadge
There's no place like home for two up-and-coming Maniototo lugers, who have returned to the Central Otago sun after a six-week stint in Europe.

Sam Flanagan, of Naseby, and Ben Voice, of Ranfurly, competed in both Italy and Austria as part of the International Luge Federation development team programme.

They were joined by Dunedin's Ella Cox and Christchurch's Jack Leslie, who also regularly train and compete at Naseby.

Neither of the Maniototo boys had been to Europe before, and Ben, who started luging two years ago, said the experience was an eye-opener.

The first week in particular was a challenge, he said, as the European tracks were more technical than his home ground in Naseby.

''The first week I didn't have as much fun. It was different and I was struggling a bit but after that I got it and I really enjoyed it.

''The way I turned wasn't too good so I kept crashing and kept hurting myself but I eventually got it. It's [the track] very different to Naseby. Extremely different. I was pretty happy but the other people were just so fast. They've been doing it for quite a while.''

Ben competed in three events and was forerunner for another two, while still managing to train every day, and by the end of the tour the hard work had paid off.

He was given a trophy as a thank-you for helping out as forerunner in one event, and also finished third in the youth race at the Junior World Cup in Austria.

He was too young to compete in every class, but he is hoping to go back next season to build on his experience.

As well as improving his luging, he also met athletes from a range of countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. He plans to keep in touch with his new friends.

''I definitely learnt a lot, not just about luging but travelling as well - new people, new cultures, new food. I'm hoping to go back next year.''

Like Ben, Sam was drawn to luging because of the adrenaline rush.

He competed in six events and finished 33rd in the Junior World Cup and is also hoping for a return trip.

He described the European tracks as ''a lot steeper, faster, sharper, everything''.

''A lot of things were challenging but it all went fairly well. I'm quite happy with myself. I learnt a lot.''

The rigorous training and the cold weather was tiring by the end of the trip, he said, and he was looking forward to coming home at the end of the tour.

''I was pretty worn down. My body had had enough by the end.''

A highlight of his trip was meeting new people and learning about other cultures. The food was also ''really good'', he said.

Ben agreed, although he stuck to the European equivalent of Coco-pops for breakfast every morning.

''I don't get it [Coco-pops] at home.''

rebecca.nadge@alliedpress.co.nz

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