Weekly Feature

2013-01-09 / Lifestyles

The road to gold...

Athlete prepares for Winter Olympics

Geoff Sitch races down the frozen track in a skeleton competition. Sitch competed in the sport during his high school years and is now training in the hopes of competing in the Winter Olympics. Geoff Sitch races down the frozen track in a skeleton competition. Sitch competed in the sport during his high school years and is now training in the hopes of competing in the Winter Olympics. As a new year begins, Geoff Sitch will start preparing for the biggest competition of his life: the Winter Olympics.

For a little more than two weeks, millions of people sat glued to their television sets as they watched athletes from all over the world compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Next year, they’ll be doing the same, but this time for the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.

Sitch, a 2005 graduate of Amherst Central High School, will begin his long journey to the Olympics with training, which will start in mid-January. He’s hoping to compete as a racer for the men’s skeleton competition.

“I’m getting back into it. There’s no guarantee I’m going to the Olympics, but that’s the goal,” Sitch said.

The skeleton competition is a winter sliding sport where an individual athlete lies face down on a small sled and slides down a frozen track. The same type of track is used for the bobsled and luge events.

The competition includes a total of four runs down the track, which take place over two days. The fastest combined time of the four runs determines the winner of the event.

Originating in Switzerland, the sport was introduced to the Winter Olympics in 1928 and became a permanent competition in 2002.

Although mastering the sport takes a lot of time and training, Sitch said the most difficult aspects are finances and access to facilities.

“Training in the facilities is difficult because there are only two in North America,” he said. “It’s also very expensive, so financially it’s very taxing.”

Sitch is in the midst of moving to Utah, which is home to the Utah Olympic Park Track, a facility for bobsled, luge and skeleton training.

During the 2002 Winter Olympics, the site hosted the sliding competitions. It is at this facility where Sitch will begin his training regimen.

“I do Olympic weightlifting three times a week, sprint training three times a week, and I’ll be doing sliding, so I’ll be training on the track a few times a week in Park City,” he said.

While he’s not practicing his sliding skills, Sitch will be helping to rebuild a branch of the health club Lifetime Fitness. Sitch works as a personal trainer at the facility.

“It’s a pretty renowned health club,” he said. “They’re leading the way in terms of innovation in the health industry.”

Sitch said it may take him six years to reach the level of training needed to compete in the Olympics.

“First, I have to get on the U.S. national program, which is step one,” Sitch said. “It might take a year and half to two years.”

After making the team, Sitch said he would start competing internationally. Sitch would have to be ranked one of the top three sliders in the country to be considered for the Olympics.

“My goal is six years from now to be in the Olympics in South Korea,” he said.

Despite the steep slope ahead of him to reach his goal, Sitch is no stranger to training for the event.

As a freshman in high school, Sitch became interested in the skeleton competition.

“I was sitting downstairs one night, and there was an ad on TV for U.S. tryouts,” he said. “I showed up, did the test and did well.”

Sitch began competing at the national level throughout his high school career, and dreams of going to the Olympics were within his sights.

Then he went off to college to further his education and took a break from the sport. He decided to get back into it after seeing athletes compete during the summer.

“College happened, and now I’m at a point in my life where I can pursue that sport. I realized that I still had time to compete,” Sitch said. “I was watching some of the Olympics this summer and thought it was worth giving it a shot.”

email: erikac@beenews.com

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