Summer Britcher felt comfortable during her first abbreviated training runs down the bottom of the 2018 Olympic luge track at the Alpensia Sliding Center.
But that quickly changed when she moved up to the true starting height and encountered turn nine. She even assigned a four-letter nickname to the infamous curve: “the skid.”
“It got pretty frustrating having so many runs in a row and messing it up,” Britcher said. “But I looked at it as a puzzle and just one more track that needs to be figured out.”
Britcher is not alone in her assessment of turn nine. U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney described it as a “problem area.” Chris Mazdzer said it is “super challenging.” Erin Hamlin admitted that it gave athletes “a run for our money.”
The angle that the lugers have to take when exiting the curve is what makes turn nine so difficult. The turn sends lugers towards the right, but the straightaway goes about 45 degrees to the left.
“The walls will kind of jump out and bite you, instead of you jumping out to bite them,” said Tucker West. “It’s definitely one of the harder curves around the world.”
Turn nine attracted quite a crowd at the 2017 PyeongChang World Cup, which took place about a year before the 2018 Games. Athletes, coaches and videographers staked positions at the entrance and exit of the curve during training runs.
“Everyone is trying to learn from each other,” Sweeney said.
The U.S. doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman finished seventh at the World Cup competition in PyeongChang on Feb. 18, 2017.
“Curve nine was the decider of the competition for both disciplines,” Terdiman said at the time.
Since turn nine will be challenging for all races, the lugers are searching for other areas of the track to pick up speed.
“If [you] make it out of turn nine, you can make it down,” Hamlin said. “But there will be a lot of quirks to make it down fast.”
Beyond turn nine, the U.S. athletes have found the 2018 Olympic luge track to be relatable.
“This track has different sections that actually resemble other tracks,” Terdiman said. “There’s a little bit of Lake Placid here, there’s a little bit of Park City, there’s a little bit of Paramonova.”
And the best part of the track is the view from the starting height.
“It’s beautiful,” said Matt Mortensen. “On one side you can see the snowboard hill, and on the other side you can see the town below.”