Team Ireland’s newest luger describes her YOG experience

Team Ireland’s Lily Cooke qualified for the Winter Youth Olympic Games in the Women’s Luge just over a year after first trying it out.

We caught up with her after her race (where she raced well and finished 27th overall).

Talk about today.

Well, this morning I woke up and was kind of feeling a little bit of the pre-race nerves, but it’s just such an exciting event to be at. It’s not like any other race. Everybody’s so supportive. All the volunteers here, the coaches, everybody at the start, people, I don’t know, coming over to me, wishing me good luck getting the messages from home. I just feel like I’ve got the whole nation behind me. So I was nervous, but I was just excited to do my nation proud mostly.

  How did you get into the sport?

Well, first off, I emailed the Irish Luge Federation after seeing Elsa Desmond in the Beijing 2022 Olympics. I was just really inspired by her story. She was a doctor and she’d worked so hard to get this sport set up in Ireland. So I was really inspired by her and I emailed them. They were super supportive, got me started straight away. They were no pressure, do it however much or however little you want to do, how much training, all that kind of stuff. So of course they gave me full support when I said I want to go as far as I can. And they said, do you want to go to the Youth Olympics? I said, sure thing. So, so much training and effort. And initially last year I was on this track and I had quite a few crashes and I didn’t anticipate coming back to the Youth Olympics in Korea. I didn’t think I’d qualify. I didn’t think I’d make it. It wasn’t my goal for this season. It wasn’t even something that I thought about, but I’m super excited to be back here and it’s so nice just having their support behind me through the last year and all those trainings.

Describe the feeling when you tried luge for the first time.

It was absolutely gut-wrenching. I was terrified. I was so scared. I honestly don’t know how I got past those first few weeks of training with those nerves. I was terrified. But you kind of get used to it and you realize this is not as intimidating if I can do it once, I can do it again in multiple different tracks and stuff. So yeah, it’s definitely, I would say my first year of sliding, I was just always constantly terrified. But this year I’m in my year of fun. I’m just enjoying it. I’m not thinking about the nerves.

Describe the adrenaline, and why it keeps you doing what you do.

It’s just honestly the feeling after you put down a good run, you’ve laid out a really good run, you’re really happy and you feel that speed, especially in the final few corners. When you know that it’s going well, your brain has time to think, oh my God, I’m alive. The fight or flight is gone and the speed at the end is the main thing for me. Once you’ve laid down a really good run, a clean run, and you feel that speed, it’s just amazing. There’s no other feeling I can describe. It’s insane.


How was hitting 100km an hour for the first time?

I didn’t actually realize I had done that until I got home. And at dinner we were talking about the session and Elsa was like, you hit your first a hundred kilometers today and having someone say it to you, you’re like, oh my God, I did that. How can someone even go a hundred kilometers with just a helmet on? That’s insane. But it’s exhilarating. It’s really exciting. It’s, there’s no words to put into a sentence to say how crazy it feels

Does doing a sport that very few others do make it extra special?

Yeah, it definitely does. I feel so special being a small nation as well. I mean, there’s only the two of us competing right now for Ireland, so the bigger countries are always helping us out. They’re really friendly and just luge is such a small community. Everybody’s friendly with each other. Luge is, honestly, it’s my second family, especially during winter. It’s like my brothers and sisters here, so it’s so exciting to be in this such a loving community. Everybody’s just so friendly and so kind to each other, especially right now this week in the Youth Olympics

Next week you’re doing your mocks, how are you feeling about that?

Yeah. Oh my God. I have no idea how I’m going to do that. Honestly. I don’t want to think about that right now. Yeah, it’s definitely going to be a lot of effort, but I think the teachers are definitely going to give me some grace. I think they’re all just super happy that I’ve competed and they’re super proud of me. So I have a good school community (Institute of Education, Dublin) as well, that’s got my back.

  Does today give you a taste for more?

Of course. Of course. For a hundred percent. I would love to continue on. Maybe my goal would be a Senior Olympics, I’ll keep training. Next year I’m going to try to do some more since I’ll be finished school and just carry on Elsa’s legacy. Maybe I’ll coach some juniors, recruit some people. But that’s a long way ahead. I’m just enjoying my time while I’m here.

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