Seven months after tearing ACL, Riverton luger took home gold, silver medals
May 13, 2020 11:06AM
By Travis Barton
Orson Colby sports his two medals from the USA Luge Youth National Championships in Lake Placid, New York. (Photo courtesy Kelly Colby)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
Seven months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, Orson Colby took home a gold and silver medal at the Norton USA Luge Youth National Championships on Feb. 29 to March 1 at Lake Placid, New York.
He also won the luge youth nationals in Park City last year, posting the fastest time in his division by over a second. But last August, the 14-year-old Riverton resident tore his ACL.
“He was non-weight-bearing for 12 weeks,” said his mother, Kelly Colby. “It was hard, but he never got discouraged; he worked hard to get back at it.”
Part of the rehab process involved being able to stop the sled at the end of the race and carry a 50-pound sled. Colby wasn’t cleared to start doing runs until Dec. 20, a little over two months before nationals, but said he was ready to go for Lake Placid.
“I was 100% [physically] but still kind of in nervous mode [mentally],” Colby said.
There were two separate seeding races, but the combination of the two events (four heats) crowns the national champion.
The first seeding race saw Colby claim gold finishing with the fastest times in both heats. A rough start to his third run in the second race dropped him down to 10th. He rebounded on the fourth run with the best time, which vaulted him up to fourth for the second seeding race.
Between the two events, Colby claimed silver with a combined time of 3.13.458. In three of the four races, he had the fastest time.
The Lake Placid track is different from the Park City track (the only two tracks in the United States). Park City’s track, where Colby practices regularly, is fast with giant turns and more G force. Colby can get up to 62 mph. In practice, he can only do five runs a day due to fatigue.
“Lake Placid has more turns, and it’s a slower track; it’s more technical,” Kelly said. “There was a learning curve.”
“There’s not much speed; the start feels like you’re going really slow,” added Colby.
Colby said overall he felt good about the weekend (including staying at the Olympic Village), and was quick to congratulate his teammate Joey Heuser of Park City, who took home the overall gold.
“I was really proud of him that he did that,” Colby said. “For me, you just keep moving forward.”
Colby now awaits the announcement of the national team (scheduled for May 1). Kelly said they hope to make the C (competitive) team, he’s been on the D (development) team. He’ll also move up to the youth A division this year for ages 15-18.
It’s part of the next step in a sport Colby started as a “thing to get a merit badge.” But after being invited to try it on the ice, he’s been hooked ever since.
“He’s played all the little league sports, but this has been the one thing he's never complained about,” Kelly said. “Practices are 3.5-hour commitments with travel time. He never complains.”
Colby remembers feeling panicked his first time down the ice, but he “surprisingly didn’t hit the wall” as much as he thought he would.
“A lot of times when you overthink it, you hit the walls because you're only thinking about that,” he said. “But when you relax and just think about the track, you can go down nice and smooth.”
“Luge is a relaxation sport,” Kelly said. “If they’re tense on the sled then you can’t steer it.”
Luge has affected Colby’s life off the ice too. He said he thinks faster, has improved his reaction time and learned how to do hard things. Kelly noted his confidence, focus in school and leadership abilities have also improved. Also, the thermostat in his room was reset. He never gets cold.
Orson, described as an adrenaline junkie by his mom, grew up on a motorcycle (it’s how he tore his ACL) racing on tracks and riding trails. It’s easy to forget he still doesn’t have a driver’s license.
He once asked his mom, as they drove down the freeway doing 65 mph if it was scary to drive this fast with cars by you.
“I think what he does is scarier,” Kelly said.