DAVID GREENE, HOST:
All right, Steve, "Jeopardy!" question. This Olympic event is known as the fastest sport on ice.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Well, it isn't me skating, so what is da (ph) luge, the luge?
GREENE: (Laughter) Yes, you're right. Listen to this. It is.
INSKEEP: Oh, good.
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Good morning everyone, and welcome to the 2017 USA Luge Challenge.
GREENE: Very exciting, those sleds that rip down an icy track at 90 miles an hour. Aaron Schachter from member station WGBH says this sport is looking for its next big star.
AARON SCHACHTER, BYLINE: You may be shocked to learn that it isn't easy finding people to do luge. That's largely because there are only three places in the U.S. where you can try the real thing, and that's why USA Luge throws regional events to find new talent. In the summer, they run sleds on wheels racing down hilly pavement. In winter, there are practice tracks and races at ski slopes around the country like this one at the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area.
Luge is one of those sports that you think about for, like, two weeks every four years.
AIDAN KELLY: Oh, yeah, yeah, and nobody - yeah, it's a much bigger sport in Europe.
SCHACHTER: At 22, Aidan Kelly is a veteran slider, as luge racers are called. He started at 13, picked out of a crowd of kids at one of these slider searches.
KELLY: The Germans and Austrians and Italian fans over there probably keep us going a little more than our American fans do unfortunately, but I think everybody is always interested when they see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Today, we're using plastic replicas of the actual steel sleds. We have a sled on display right here under the USA Luge tent.
SCHACHTER: And the track is different too. It isn't a sheet of ice, more like a short tubing run with walls carved out of snow about 50 feet long. Real luge tracks can be up to a mile. So there's not a whole lot of space here to judge prospective racers. But a lot of the people go up and down dozens of times, and it becomes easy to pick out the naturals.
WILLIAM WATSON: I like it.
SCHACHTER: William Watson is 10. He sleds straight and fast - no fear.
What do you like about it?
WILLIAM: I like the feeling of going fast when I'm on my back.
SCHACHTER: You look like you knew what you were doing. Have you done this before?
WILLIAM: Nope, never.
SCHACHTER: You're just good at going fast.
WILLIAM: Yeah, pretty much. I skateboard, snowboard and surf indoors sometimes, so pretty much I'm just used to the feeling of going fast.
SCHACHTER: (Laughter) You are the perfect candidate. They're going to try and sign you up.
Now, I know what you're thinking - if a 10-year-old kid can do it, how hard can this luge thing be?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So we have an open invitation to all you skiers and all you riders to check out the most exciting sport on ice. That is the sport of luge.
SCHACHTER: I feel like I have to try this, but I don't want to.
KELLY: I feel like you do as well.
SCHACHTER: That's Olympian Aidan Kelly egging me on. So I strap on a helmet and goggles and grab a sled.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So you want to really dig your feet down into the snow, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right, have fun.
SCHACHTER: Thank you.
I sit on the edge of the sled, point my feet downhill, hold on for dear life.
Oh, that was great.
That six seconds was pure joy, though nowhere near fast enough to catch the attention of the USA Luge folks. But keep an eye out for William Watson. The 10-year-old came in second in a competition later in the day in the 10 to 17 age group, earning himself a trip to Lake Placid for a real tryout and a shot at the Winter Olympic Games. For NPR News, I'm Aaron Schachter.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.