Going feet first at speeds of up to 100km per hour on a sheet of ice provides an adrenaline rush which is propelling Jack Leslie (19) to the top of his sport.
Leslie is fast becoming a top senior competitor on the international natural luge circuit after a successful junior career in which he received top rankings.
“It started for me nine years ago, in Naseby, when I was 10,” he said.
“I was staying with friends at and attending a winter holiday programme.” Leslie was hooked and has been back every winter since.
His long-time association with Naseby resulted in a nomination for a junior men’s award in the Central Otago Sports Awards.
On overseas courses, speeds of between 80kmh and 100kmh can be reached.
“Crazy speeds and cornering, it’s just an adrenaline rush,” he said.
Over the years racing has taken him to Italy, Austria, Germany, Romania and Slovenia. Now that he is on the senior circuit, he is looking forward to competing in Russia and Sweden.
Overseas tracks are 900m to 1.2km in length, whereas the Naseby track is 360m.
“It takes more out of you. When you finish you are quite tired.”
Natural luge differs from the Winter Olympics, where artificial ice is used and tracks have banked corners.
“It’s [natural luge] a massive sport overseas.”
However, it was hard to find sponsors in New Zealand, he said.
“Funding from overseas by the International Luge Federation is a huge help and, of course, from my parents, as well.”
Leslie spends a couple of weeks in Naseby each year to work on his position and to practise. He has a specific exercise programme.
He recently placed fifth in a senior world championship race in Romania and wants a top-five ranking on the international circuit.