Wanaka sportsman Hunter Burke (16) is riding high after reaching his goal of placing within the top 20, reaching 18th place in the men’s luge singles at the Winter Youth Olympics.
The young athlete has had a busy time, visiting eight countries over four months, topped off by his win at the St MoritzCelerina Olympic bobrun in the Engadin Valley, Switzerland.
Burke began his Olympic journey last October with two weeks training in Sigulda, Latvia, and also spent time in Germany, Poland, Italy and Lithuania.
‘‘I went in and out of a lot of countries.’’
Training was with coaches from the International Luge Federation (Fil), alongside athletes from many different countries including Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia and Moldova.
The Youth Olympics were ‘‘quite special, it was unlike anything else’’, Burke said.
He had been to the Luge World Cup but the Youth Olympics had ‘‘a lot more people’’ and there was more of a build-up before the games, he said.
‘‘One thing I particularly enjoyed about it was we were all together — our Olympic village was a youth hostel, and it accommodated all the luge athletes from the different countries.’’
This was different from the world cup, when athletes would be split across different hotels.
‘‘So it is not very often that you actually get to talk to everyone who is in your age group.’’
Reaching 18th place in the men’s singles was a great feeling.
‘‘My goal was to reach the top 20.’’
His first run ‘‘could have been better’’ with a problem at the start.
Luge begins by paddling down the start to gain momentum, using spikes on his gloves to grip into the ice.
‘‘The spikes dig into the ice to help push you along.’’ He normally used elastic to keep the spikes in place, but on the first run he didn’t have elastic to keep his spikes in place and they began to come loose ‘‘so I lost a bit of time’’.
However before his second run he was able to secure the spikes ‘‘and it was so much better, I put in my fastest run of the week’’.
After his first run he was sitting on 21st, but his second run took him to 15th place, ‘‘which put me at an overall of 18th place’’.
‘‘I’m really happy with that.’’
His longer term goal is to compete at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milano Cortina, Italy.
Attending the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China might be ‘‘a bit too ambitious’’ so he was setting his sights further ahead.
In the meantime, Burke and his family had recently moved from Dunedin to Wanaka, and he was looking forward to making friends at Mount Aspiring College.
‘‘Mount Aspiring is quite a sporty school.’’