An opportunity seven years in the making has finally arrived for Summer Britcher.
The winter luge season kicks off this weekend. Should the 19-year-old Glen Rock native do well enough in competition over the next two months, there's a good chance she could be going to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Britcher was first introduced to singles luge -- the sport where an athlete flies down an icy course feet-first in a sled -- at the age of 12. This is the first chance she has had to qualify for the Winter Olympics. Yet, the 2012 Susquehannock High School graduate doesn't sound at all nervous about the possibility.
"Um, I guess I'm trying not to let any of the pressure get to me. I guess I'm trying to remember to enjoy it and whatever happens, happens," Britcher said by phone Monday afternoon.
In the last week or so, Britcher has spent just about all of her time training at the United States Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., a location she's called home for most of the summer.
"Up until about a month-and-half ago I was working, training and taking classes. About a month-and-half ago I decided to just relax and just have training. I had a really easy schedule of four or five hours a day of training and then relaxing. It sounds pathetic. I know," she said. "But about a week ago we started training seven days a week for six to seven hours a day."
Perhaps Britcher doesn't want to get too worked up about the prospects of competing in the Winter Olympics. First, she has to perform well enough in the next two weeks to make it onto the U.S. World Cup team.
"Maybe we should hold off on doing a story for another two weeks?" Britcher asked. "Then I'll have more to tell you."
Britcher will participate in the 2013 Norton National Championship and Seeding Races over the next two weekends, which will be split between events in Lake Placid and Park City, Utah.
"There's four spots for the World Cup team and there's five of us that are competing for those four spots," Britcher said.
The likelihood of Britcher qualifying for the U.S. World Cup team is pretty high. In 2011 she took bronze in the Norton National Women's Luge Championships. In the same event in 2012 she posted the fourth-fastest time among U.S. female competitors.
Plus, it was only because of her performance in the final luge event of the 2012-13 season back in March -- when she posted the second-fastest time of U.S. female competitors behind former U.S. Olympian Erin Hamlin -- that qualified Britcher for the upcoming Norton races the next two weekends.
Should Britcher be among the top four women to make it onto the U.S. World Cup team, she would then spend the next two months competing in races all over the world. Then around mid-December, three women will be chosen to represent the United States in women's singles luge at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
So there's still a lot of work to be done for Britcher, who said she just wants to take it all in stride.
"Probably my dad's advice is the best. And it's very basic: 'to have fun and enjoy it.'"
Fans can track Britcher's progress at usaluge.org.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.