If the Jamaicans can field a bobsled team, then surely the desert can be home to a future Olympic luger. Well the folks at the Verizon-USA Luge Slider Search think so.
"We saw potential from quite a few kids here," program director Fred Zimny said Sunday at the conclusion of four weekend clinics held just south of Ahwatukee.
The clinics, conducted by U.S. Olympic and national team coaches and athletes, were deemed a success by Zimny.
"There's a chance three or four (kids from the area) could advance."
Almost 70 Olympic hopefuls turned out for the four sessions. The three-hour clinics for boys and girls ages 11-14 taught the basics of riding a luge sled including proper positioning, steering and stopping. After a "run" down a blocked-off hilly section of Pecos Road, each youngster concluded their session with a battery of fitness tests.
"The Phoenix luge search was the eighth of 10 sessions conducted nationwide with 40-50 kids eventually being selected to attend a camp in January at the U.S. national training center," Zimny said.
Participants will be notified in late October whether they have earned an invitation to the winter camp.
Athletes selected to attend the one-week camp at the national training center take part in intensive physical skill testing, luge start evaluation, wheel sled training, sled maintenance and training on an actual luge run.
Those who show the most promise will also be considered to join the 2007-08 USA Luge development team.
"It's a start but the chance of being on an Olympic team is possible," Zimny said.
Kids who came out of luge search programs eight years ago are now being considered for Olympic teams.
RIDING TO FAME
Matt Mills, a top reining trainer at the Outwest Stallion Station in Scottsdale, was a member of the United States gold medal- winning team in the reining event Friday at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany.
The four-man team amassed 665 points to successfully defend its title. Even though Mills' score (217.5) was the lowest of the squad and thrown out to get to the final tally, his showing qualified him for Sunday's individual competition where he finished fourth with 224.5 points among 19 finalists out of 67 competitors.
Reining involves sliding, turning and galloping horses at full speed or dressage cowboy style. It is described as fast-paced and spectacular — with plenty of changes in direction and sudden stops. The patterns in which the horses are ridden derive from the cowboys' work on ranches.
THE MORE THE MERRIER
The Scottsdale Fever 14-and-under competitive fast pitch softball team, which finished its 2006 campaign ranked fourth in the state by the United States Specialty Sports Association, added seven new players after tryouts in mid-August.
"We have added an enormous amount of talent and more girls that subscribe to our mission and core values," 14-under coach Mike Hinkle said.
The Fever is getting ready for its fall season and has already registered to compete in Tucson, Payson and Bullhead City the first three weekends in October.
Also, 10-and-under and 12-and-under teams have formed under the Scottsdale Fever banner.