A little over a year ago, 17-year-old high school senior Justin Wachowski had never set foot on an icy luge track or even knew how skeleton and luge differed. Now he is studying his sport under top athletic instructors at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, and says he won’t decrease his momentum until he hits Olympic gold.
“I'm the type of person who will stick with a sport till the sport kicks me out,” Wachowski said. “I plan on going until they say ‘Welcome to the Olympic Team’ or ‘You are not good enough’ and then I’ll evaluate whether I go to college or participate in skeleton or bobsled.”
Luge is one of the most dangerous sports in the winter olympic games, where athletes race down an icy, high-banked track at speeds up to 90 mph. When Wachowski heard about luge he was all for the idea of an adrenaline-pumping slide down an icy track.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie, I love how when the adrenaline is pumping through your veins you can become so focused on one thing and you can exceed your expectations in others,” Wachowski said.
In July 2010, Wachowski saw an advertisement for a Slider Search Competition being held at the Clinton Community College campus. Though the recruiters were looking for candidates in the 12 to 15-year-old age range, judges saw potential in 16-year-old Justin.
Dan Wachowski, Justin’s father, said he did so well at the tryouts the judges invited him back to do a Wheels Clinic at the Olympic center in Lake Placid, where he impressed the judges with his form on the board. From there he was invited to a Start Competition where he again impressed judges with his speed. From there he was asked to participate in the Luge Junior Development team, an amateur training team set up to train and condition Olympic hopefuls.
When first asked to join the team, Wachowski said he wasn’t as overjoyed as his family members were, instead he saw the offer as an opportunity to help him to the next step in his goals.
“I realized this was just one step out of the hundreds of steps to get to where I want to be,” he said. “Now that I’m here I will need to reach for the next step, it’s just one level gone and I need to step it up.”
Over the last year, Wachowski has participated in The Empire State Games, a set of annual Olympic-style competitions for amateur athletes from New York state, the Adirondack Ice Breaker Competition, and Junior National Championships.
Currently, Wachowski is living and training at the Olympic training center in Lake Placid where he trains and studies his craft, and attends high school via the internet, working toward his goal of competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
When Wachowski is at the training facility, his time is spent in training sessions that include strenuous weight training, two hour sliding sessions and start training. Once his physical training is over he must take on the role of completing his senior year of high school online. Wachowski said by the end of the year he will have spent half the school year at the training facility.
“I’m very proud of him,” his father said. “It’s not a pipe dream for him, he has set the stage for himself with the amount of training he’s done.”
Though his routine is not that of an average 17-year-old, Wachowski said he will continue to work hard until he reaches his olympic goals.
“My whole goal and dream in my career is to get to the olympics one way or another,” Wachowski said. “I like the feeling of representing the whole country instead of just one team or school, my plan is to be there in 2014 or 2018. I have to do it one way or another.”
The United States Olympic Team is not funded by the government. Participation is made possible through sponsorship. All training events Wachowski must travel to or competitions he competes in must be paid for out of pocket.
Anyone interested in making a donation to Justin Wachowski can do so through his Facebook page, the Justin Wachowski Olympic Athletic Training Fund.