Olympic dreams could come true in Westmont

WESTMONT, Ill. (WLS) -- The next winter Olympian might be right here in Chicago; and this weekend in Westmont, kids aged nine to 13 will have a chance to find out if it's them.

"That would be awesome. Just to go out there and participate in it," says 12-year-old Alex Munsie, who will be among dozens trying out for the U.S. National Luge Team's Slider Search.

"It starts to get fun. You can enjoy just speeding down that hill," remarks 8th grader Pranav Viswanath.

Kids will take turns gliding down neighborhood streets on summer luge sleds. They have wheels instead of blades-- but that doesn't make things easier.

"It's kind of hard to swerve through all the cones," said Matt Pecard.

"One time I crashed into a ditch," added Munsie with a smile.

The feet control steering, but in opposite directions.

"If you want to go right, you push this part with your left leg," explains Munsie.

Olympic sleds work the same way.

"This is how we introduce kids to the sport," says U.S. Junior National Luge Team Coach Fred Zimny. Each summer he travels the country searching for the "right stuff."

"... Have very good position from their very first run... pick up the steering very quickly... an aspect of fearlessness too. We're looking for kids who love what they're doing and aren't really afraid of it," he explains, acknowledging they're subjective traits.

In Westmont the fastest kids will be cruising at 25 miles per hour. But an Olympic sled can go more than three times faster.

Still, the Slider Search has helped identify future stars. Seven of the 10 U.S. Lugers at the 2014 Sochi Games made their first runs with this program, including Aidan Kelly.

"I used to skateboard a bunch, so it seemed like a pretty natural transition," explains Kelly, who now helps Zimny identify the next crop of lugers.

Zimny saw talent in Kelly, inviting the Long Island native to a winter camp at Lake Placid.

"I decided at that point that I had to keep doing this sport forever," said Kelly.

Of the hundreds of kids trying out this summer, around 50 will be invited to Lake Placid for a chance to ride the winter sleds. Even fewer will join the national team.

Some of the sport's rising stars were discovered in Westmont, which hosts the Slider Search for its fourth time this year.

"We come in here, we close down streets, we inconvenience everybody. But everybody is so positive about what we're doing," said a grateful Zimny.

The slider Search runs all day Saturday and Sunday on Cass Ave. between 55th and Dallas streets.

Who knows-- your road to the Olympics might start in Westmont!
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