HISTORY-MAKER Elsa Desmond has had a great start to her season, already racking up several PBs and her best ever World Cup result on the international sliding circuit.
Ireland’s first ever luge competitor in the Olympics last year takes four months off her job as a medical doctor to compete and has stepped things up another gear since Beijing 2022.
She started the season with PBs in Innsbruck, competed in Park City before Christmas and was 25th in Sigulda (Latvia) over the New Year, her best ever result in a World Cup.
She missed the Whistler leg pre-Christmas with injury and struggled in Oberhof (Germany) in late January, but has come to accept the highs and lows in every season, especially in a sport that has such a non-stop schedule and variable track conditions.
She credits her progress to the support offered by a new partnership with the Romanian team, the confidence she gleaned from her Olympic debut and her new sled which she has christened ‘Pegasus’.
It’s a lot different from her old faithful ‘Hank’, or ‘Hank the Tank’ as she called it for its legendary durability.
“I could ram that thing into as many walls as I liked and he wouldn’t break whereas now I’m on a much more delicate sled,” she quips.
“Pegasus is far more flexible and much faster when I get it right but it’s also much more challenging to drive which is why I had to concentrate so much on pre-season this year.
I even have to concentrate a lot more on my breathing. On my old sled I didn’t have to worry about where or when I breathed because it was so sturdy and stable whereas now things like that matter much more.
Pegasus cost €6000 and, for comparison, she estimates that the German’s, luge’s superstars, drive sleds “which probably cost €1million and are the equivalent of Formula One cars.”
But every little tweak helps and money from the OFI’s ‘Make a Difference’ fund helped her vital equipment upgrade.
“Half of that funding went on my sled and the remainder went on kit and equipment for the junior and development athletes in our federation. To give them the opportunity to progress and create that legacy for our sport within Ireland, that really is a huge aim at the moment.”
Partnering with the Romanians this season gives her access to two coaches who can monitor her training runs which are never more than six at each new track before she has to race.
The Germans still have way more coaches monitoring every corner of their athletes’ practices but it’s still another gain and Desmond is also racing with a new mindset.
“Putting down three really solid runs at an Olympics put me into a different head-space of ‘if you can put it down there you can put it down anywhere!’ It was definitely a boost to my confidence.
“Because the Olympics was the dream that I’d been working towards for so long it was like a pressure off too. Obviously I want to get better all the time but achieving that thing that I’d initially set out to do has really helped.”