Olympic send-off added to Flaming Leaves Fest Sunday

LAKE PLACID – A group of local athletes who are expected to compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will be saluted this weekend at a special event.

A Send-off to Sochi celebration is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at the Olympic Jumping Complex, capping off a weekend of national team and chapionship events in several Olympic sports.

The Send-off will recognize several athletes from the Lake Placid region who are expected to compete in February’s Olympics in Sochi. Since the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, the Lake Placid area has sent at least one athlete to compete. Four years ago, 12 area athletes competed in the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

USA Luge, the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and the U.S. ski jumping and Nordic combined teams will each hold national team and national championship events beginning this weekend in Lake Placid. These events will help each organization select its fall 2013 World Cup team, which could be the first step for many athletes toward making the Olympic team.

“For some of these young and dedicated American athletes, they’re a step closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream,” New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority chairman Pat Barrett said in a press release. ORDA manages all of Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Olympic venues. “Our venues are prepared to offer the finest conditions so that we have best competitions possible for all of these outstanding athletes.”

Sliding on the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex track got underway Oct. 1, and bobsled, luge and skeleton athletes have already begun preparing for national team trials and selection races. U.S. two-man and women’s bobsled racing on the 1-mile-long track is slated for Saturday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Skeleton national team trials are set for Oct. 21 and 22 from 8 to 11 a.m.

U.S. bobsled and skeleton athletes who make the World Cup teams could find their way back to Lake Placid in December when the track hosts the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) World Cup. The Dec. 9 to 15 event will showcase many of the athletes who will compete in Sochi.

The United States luge team will also begin selecting its national team this Saturday. Men’s singles, women’s singles and the doubles sleds will tackle the 20-curve course beginning at 7:30 a.m.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, the nation’s best compete for the title of U.S. national champion in the sports of ski jumping and Nordic combined during the annual Flaming Leaves Festival. These athletes will launch themselves off the Olympic Jumping Complex’s 90-meter ski jump.

The ski jumping lineup is expected to include World Champion Lindsey Van and 2010 Olympian Peter Frenette of Saranac Lake. Van and the rest of the world’s top women ski jumpers will make their sport’s Olympic debut in Sochi. Frenette, who was the United States’ second youngest athlete during the 2010 winter games – he turned 18 during them – is looking to return.

Those attending the Flaming Leaves Festival will also have the opportunity to meet several athletes who hope to represent the United States during February’s games. Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, the reigning Olympic men’s Super-G bronze medalist, women’s bobsled athlete Jamie Greubel and other bobsled, luge, skeleton and ski jumping athletes will be on hand, beginning at 1:30 p.m., to sign autographs, pose for pictures and talk about the upcoming season.

Reigning Nordic combined Olympic champion Bill Demong of Vermontville is expected to compete in his final U.S. national championship event of his career. He’ll also look ahead to his fifth Olympics in Sochi, where he will try to defend his 2010 crown.

The Nordic combined national championship event will wrap up Sunday when the athletes ski 10 kilometers around the newly constructed Olympic Jumping Complex roller ski loop. The four-lap (6.2-mile-long) race is slated to begin at 3 p.m.

Activities at the jumping complex wrap up at 4 p.m. with the Send-off to Sochi event, followed by an 8 p.m. showing of the movie “Ready to Fly,” at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. The film follows Van, the 2009 world champion, and the U.S. women’s ski jumping team in their quest to be included in the Olympic Games. All proceeds, from the $10 donation per person, will go to support the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and the U.S. women’s ski jumping team. Van and her teammates Jessica Jerome, Abby Hughes, Allisa Johnson and others will also be on hand for a meet-and-greet in the lobby of the LPCA.

For more information about all of the events and activities taking place this weekend at ORDA’s Olympic venues, log onto www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.