Thursday, January 2, 2014

Special Interview: Hannah Miller, Future Olympist

Once upon a time, preteen Emily found out her good friend from her homeschool group had discovered a cool winter sport. Despite her friend's disbelief, Emily was firmly convinced the girl would be in the Olympics one day. Fast-forward several years, and Hannah Miller, slider extraordinaire, is raising money to train internationally - and, yes, be in future winter Olympics! Commence the insane squealing! I totally called this.

Anyway, to help Hannah get the word out about her unique sport and her fundraising needs, I invited her to hang out with us today. I just know you're going to love her, my lovely readers.

For starters, tell us a little about yourself.  

Well, I suppose I'll start out with saying that my name is Hannah Miller. I'm sixteen years old and have been homeschooled since first grade. Besides luge, I like to spend my time reading and staying fit while spending time with my family.

As you'll read on through this, you'll learn that I've dedicated the last five years of my life to something that I love and the only way I've been able to do so is through the love and support of my family and friends.

What is luge, exactly?

Luge is an odd yet unique sport. Technically, the noun form is "sliding." We slide down an iced-over track on a small sled that's fitted to our bodies at vast speeds of 65-80 mph, racing to the thousandth of a second. Luge is actually known as the fastest sport on ice.

Because we race to the thousandth of a second, all of our equipment is based off of aerodynamics. We wear skin-tight spandex suits and special shoes made to point our feet. The edges of our sleds are smooth and rounded. The whole point is to go as fast as possible.

Have you always been interested in luge?

Actually, before I tried out, I had no clue as to what luge was. My parents saw the luge recruitment program in the local newspaper and thought it'd be a fun thing for me to try out. Little did they know that four years later, I'd end up competing around the world!


How'd you get started in luge - and how old were you?

I was only twelve years old when I got started. The USLA (United States Luge Association) has a recruitment program called a "slider search" where they travel all over the country looking for raw talent. In August of 2009, they held one of these two-three hour sessions in the next town over. Seeing it in the paper,
I assumed that the program was to familiarize you with the sport, not a program that was looking for their next team athletes. Needless to say, as soon as I gave it a try, I fell in love with it.

What is your favorite part of sliding?

My favorite part is definitely the adrenaline rush and the sense of accomplishment after you've had a great run. Especially after having problems in a certain area, once you finally nail it and fully understand what to do, it's just such a great feeling.

Describe a typical day in the life of a slider.

A typical day in the life of a slider can be rather hectic. On a daily basis, we take runs on the luge track, which is the most important part of our training. We do some sort of physical training, whether it be weight lifting, cardio/agility, or core movements. Also, we have an indoor start facility. The most crucial part of luge is having a fast start time; because of this, the indoor start facility enables us to focus solely on improving our start times. All of this takes about six hours of the day. The rest of our time is spent on sled maintenance, meals in between activities, catching up on schoolwork, and recuperating from the day.

What places have you traveled to for training/competition?

I've traveled to various places in Germany, Austria, Latvia and Canada; not including the US.


Where was your favorite?

My favorite location would be in Igls, Austria. The scenery is utterly breathtaking. Though, my favorite track would be in Konigssee, Germany. It's one of the only tracks in the world that was built for luge. So, because of that, the curves and pressures have a very unique feeling that's unlike any other track.

Have you won any awards? Tell us about them!

I have! I've won a number of medals through small competitions, but a few of them have been from the National Championships held in Lake Placid, New York throughout the years.

I know you're homeschooled - always have been, correct? With all the traveling involved, I was wondering - are all the sliders you know homeschooled?

Yes, I've always been homeschooled, which has come to a great advantage. Most athletes either attend online schooling, are homeschooled, or continue working through their school districts. Some schools are very good about keeping in contact with students, while some schools aren't so diligent.

How has sliding changed your life?

Luge has drastically changed my life for the better. There are only two luge/bobsled/skeleton tracks in the United States, and because of that, we have to start living away from home at the Olympic Training Center at very young ages in order to train. Like I mentioned earlier, I was twelve when I got into luge. I started living away from home at such a young age that I had no choice but to gain independence and mature. I think that this situation really has come to a great advantage in every aspect of my life. Also, traveling to all of these places and experiencing the different cultures and atmospheres of different countries is far more effective than reading and learning about it through a text book.


There are, for example, baseball teams for fun, baseball teams at school or clubs, and then there's professional on-television baseball. Are there different levels like that for luge?

There are actually four teams in the system. The first team is what we call the Development Team. This is where every athlete starts. The sole purpose for this team is to help define and develop the raw talent that the young athletes have. Second, we have the Candidate Team. This group of athletes are those who have advanced themselves and who have worked hard at bettering their skills through the Development Team. Third, we have the Junior National Team. This is the team that travels all over the world competing in our Youth/Junior World Cup races throughout the season. Usually, by the time an athlete has reached this level, they will have spent about three years working their way from the Development Team to where they are now. Fourth, last but not least, we have the Senior National Team. This group of athletes are those who compete in the World Cup races all over the world and who are also candidates for our Olympic Team. It takes eight-ten years of experience to get to this level.

Can you go to school for luge? Are there scholarships, like with other sports?

Luge is such a small sport that not many colleges or schools know of it. Therefore, there are no academies or scholarships like there would be for basketball or swimming.

What are your future plans for sliding? Is there a certain team or place you plan to train with/at? Do you have a timeline in mind?

My ultimate goal is the represent the United States in the 2018 Olympic Games. I plan to eventually make my way up to the Senior National Team and race all over the world.

For readers interested in sliding: How can they learn more/get involved?

A great way to get involved is through the Adirondack Luge Club. With obtaining a membership through the Adirondack Luge Club, you will gain access to equipment and sliding participation during the designated club sliding sessions. To learn more, visit www.adirondacklugeclub.com!

I want to help you get to the Olympics! How can I help?

All athletes are mainly self-funded. We depend on friends, family and the community due to the lack of government subsidies. The most effective way to help would be through your contributions. Any form would be greatly appreciated. If you're interested, you can visit my website for more information on how to do so!

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