Tristan Jeskanen, age 16, of Peru, has spent the last three years training and competing in luge, readying himself to compete in the 2018 Olympics.
PERU — It started with a flier, as Tristan Jeskanen’s father signed him up for a slider search.
Today, the journey is far from over, with the 16-year-old excelling at luge and chasing Olympic dreams.
He’s training hard, homeschooled now, and must raise a significant amount of money to continue down his path.
But Jeskanen is not giving up, because he says, “I know I can do it.”
At 13, he didn’t know what to expect when he participated in the slider search at Clinton Community College in 2009.
“But I always liked to try new things.”
He was hooked before the ride was over.
“There’s just something about the speed and the wind in your face, and you just have to lie down and steer with your shoulders.”
Before that, he played soccer and baseball and was a swimmer, but luge was different. It requires a strong core and upper body.
The coaches thought he did well and invited him to the screening camp in Lake Placid.
Before long, they noticed Jeskanen pulling faster starts than other athletes, a testament to his strength at such a young age.
Jeskanen has spent the past three years training and competing in places such as Utah and participated in the nationals the last couple years. He no longer attends Peru Central School, with his family home-schooling him instead to better work around his training schedule.
“It seems like I am never home anymore, because I am always training,” Jeskanen said.
He placed fifth in his first nationals competition and eighth at the last one he competed in.
Jeskanen hopes to compete in the 2018 Olympics.
“It’s my biggest goal,” he said.
Jeskanen has passion and love for the sport, as well as the commitment, and said he has great coaches to help him get stronger.
“They are there for you after races, when you don’t do your best,” he said. “They boost me up after training. Without them, I would not have gotten stronger.”
He wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of his family.
“I just know this is what I am going to do.”
When he closes his eyes, he can feel himself racing down the track, reaching speeds of up to 80-miles-per-hour.
Yet he doesn’t feel as though he is traveling that fast as he navigates curves and focuses intently.
The 45 seconds it takes to finish is almost like a dream.
“It is so much of a thrill. I don’t really have words for it. You just lie down and you are going so fast, yet your mind seems to move slow, and you have so many things to think about.”
It would be an honor to compete for America, Jeskanen said.
This year, he was invited to compete with the Luge Junior National Team on the Junior World Cup Circuit. Jeskanen would compete in Utah and hopefully Europe, representing the United States.
“This is what you need to do to move up and eventually get to the Olympic team. It is a lot of hard work and I have to raise a lot of money.”
For this year, it is $10,000 to compete in all the races.
The community has been tremendously supportive with donation tables, spaghetti dinners and more.
Anyone interested in learning more about Jeskanen’s journey or making a donation toward his luge-related expenses can check out his web site: real-iceman.com.
The U.S.A. Luge Junior National Athlete is not giving up on his dream.
“I know as long as I stay focused and believe in myself, I can do it.”