Luger Quinn Takes Another Shot at Olympics

Sports agent Patrick Quinn has spent most of his adult life trying to make it to the Olympics. Friday will be a decisive moment in the 39-year-old's quest, a crucial qualifying luge race in Lake Placid. Quinn tried unsuccessfully to make the games as a speed skater in 1998 and 2002.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

An update now on the story of Patrick Quinn. We met the sports agent last month as he was trying, yet again, at the age of 39, to qualify for the Winter Olympics. Patrick Quinn tried to make the Games as a speed skater in 1998 and 2002. He didn't. This time around, he's been aiming for February's Olympics in Turin, Italy, as a competitor in a different sport, doubles luge. Patrick Quinn has wanted to be an Olympian since he was a kid. Now his quest has come down to one big qualifying race today. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

Patrick Quinn's Olympic dream has taken him from the world of hockey to speed skating to luge. The dream has endured as his body as aged. It has stayed alive through marriage and fatherhood and a busy career. Quinn has persevered after getting close to the dream as a speed skater and then just missing. What's left for Patrick Quinn is this: a race and a question.

Mr. PATRICK QUINN (Luger): Can I recognize that this is it? I've got to put it all out right now. When we go to the start handles, I need to have the biggest start of my life, and I got to do it twice and I got to do it on Friday.

GOLDMAN: Today's luge race in Lake Placid, New York, is the last in a series of five World Cup races. It'll be two runs down the Lake Placid track, each one lasting about 45 seconds. Patrick Quinn earns a chance to make his first Olympic team if he and his doubles partner, Christian Niccum, both lying face up on the same sled, finish fifth or better. They are in this all-or-nothing situation because they missed two of the races after a training crash. It happened last month in Turin on the Olympic luge track. Quinn says the sled went out of control and Niccum suffered a severe concussion.

Mr. QUINN: My face shield was cracked in half, which meant that his head had to have snapped back hard enough to break that. He was unconscious, and so the medical team arrived and they cut the sled off of me and got me off and then pretty quickly had Christian on a backboard and had a breathing tube down his throat to help him breathe and had him off to the hospital very quickly. It was a scary thing.

Ms. KATHLEEN MURRAY (Patrick Quinn's Wife): That was really devastating for me to hear. It's hard to be on the other end and getting a phone call.

GOLDMAN: Kathleen Murray has been married to Patrick Quinn for nearly three years. Although he walked away from the crash, she still gets scared.

Ms. MURRAY: You know, this is Alaina's father, and I want him to be obviously around for her. And, yeah, at times I feel angry because I think he's subjecting himself to a dangerous sport.

GOLDMAN: This is the tough part of Patrick Quinn's inspirational story. The dream that won't die directly affects Murray and their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Alaina as well. Murray is 30 and has a high-powered, full-time sales job. She says her husband's quest has put her through a range of emotions.

Ms. MURRAY: It's hard when you love someone so much and then there's something else pulling them away.

GOLDMAN: Ultimately for Murray, the difficulties are trumped by her respect for what Quinn is doing. Many of us live each day, she says, wondering what we could have done; not Patrick. The dream he's pursued, says Murray, is now a family dream. And today, Kathleen Murray is just as focused as her husband on that top-five finish. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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