Two Dunedin Luge athletes are ready to reach speeds of more than 100kph as they compete at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Ella Cox and Hunter Burke have been selected to the New Zealand Team and will compete at the Games from January 9th to 22nd in Switzerland and neighbouring France.

Cox and Burke, who spend their New Zealand winters training at Naseby in Central Otago on the Southern Hemisphere’s only ice luge track, qualified for the Winter Youth Olympic Games following an intensive period of training on tracks in Latvia, Germany and Austria and competing in four qualifying races in Austria and Germany.

Ella racing 1 St Moritz Jan 2019
Above: Ella racing in St Moritz

The Luge events will take place on Switzerland’s famed St Moritz-Celerina Bobrun that opened in 1904 and hosted the 1924 and 1948 Olympic Winter Games. Unlike other bobsleigh and luge tracks, the track is not artificially refrigerated. Instead the track is created each winter using only snow and water – and lots of manpower.

Seventeen year old Cox, a student at Dunedin’s Logan Park High School, says qualifying for the Winter Youth Olympic Games has been a long term goal.

“Since the idea of going to the Youth Olympics was mentioned to me in 2017 it’s been a huge part of my life. Every day I trained, every winter and summer, luge has been at the forefront of my mind so qualifying is pretty special for me.”

With her family owning a batch in Naseby, Cox started luging as a 7 year old in 2010 in a school holiday camp.

“The past eight weeks of training and racing in Europe has been really beneficial to me. I have learnt a lot and improved my sliding greatly and hopefully I’ll be able to show off my new skills and slide well at the Games.”

“What I love about luge is the speed, the adrenaline, the thrill that sliding down an icy slope at 100+ kph gives you. And also what it takes to luge. Luge takes everything, every muscle must work, every line must be good, your start strong and brain focused. If you get it right it’s incredible and the feelings after a good run are indescribable. If you get it wrong it’s painful, I love that its high risk, high reward.”

Sixteen year old Burke, a student at Dunedin’s Kavanagh College, says he got into luge through a friend.

“I gave it a go and I loved it. Once I was told about the possibility of going to the Youth Olympics way back in 2017, it has been my main goal and a dream I never thought would be possible.”

Hunter leaning Sandro Halank CC BY SA 4.0
Above: Hunter on ice. Photo credit: Sandro Halank

A keen sportsman Burke also plays rugby, hockey and curling. His luge career highlight is placing 20th in a Youth World Cup race at Altenberg in Germany this past weekend.

“I love the precision and quick reaction required for luge, the simplest mistake can mess up your entire run. I also love the speed, there's nothing like it speeding down a tunnel of ice a few inches off the ground at over 100 kph.”

“Getting to go overseas has been amazing, representing my country in a sport I enjoy and this season getting another step closer to reaching my goal. Since last season I've progressed massively in experience and confidence."

As well as competing individually the athletes will also compete in a mixed nation team relay.

Hunter Burke Ella Cox Konigssee
Above: Hunter and Ella in Germany

NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the athletes.
“We're extremely pleased to have two talented young luge athletes joining the New Zealand Team. We look forward to seeing you compete in Europe next month.”  
The Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games will be contested from January 9th to 22nd in Switzerland and neighbouring France.

Around 20 New Zealand athletes are expected to compete at Lausanne 2020. 11 New Zealand athletes competed at the previous edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games, with four of those athletes going on to compete at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Lausanne 2020 Olympic Winter Youth Games
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