Five years ago, Eastport resident Justin Krewson found himself flying down Bald Hill in Farmingdale on a wheeled luge sled, picking up much more speed than he intended to before a crash landing. It was a terrifying moment for the then 10-year-old, and insult was added to injury when his mother forced him to give it one more try. Krewson was taking part in a “Slider Search,” a series of events across the country, hosted by USA Luge, that introduce young athletes to the sport by teaching them to drive a wheel-equipped luge sled down a dry-land slalom course.
Krewson’s mother, Regina, didn’t want her son to end the day on a negative note. Her insistence that he give it one more try turned out to be a life-altering choice for the entire family.
Half a decade later, Krewson’s life basically revolves around luge. The sport has taken him out of traditional school and around the world, and along with his doubles partner, Tristan Jeskanen of Peru, New York, Krewson has realistic dreams of representing the United States in the Winter Olympics one day.
This winter, Krewson traveled all over Europe after he and Jeskanen were invited to race on the international world cup circuit at the junior level. Krewson began competing on the circuit in November and finished up less than a month ago, competing in a total of six junior world cup races and one junior worlds race. On the cup circuit, Krewson and Jeskanen, both 16, were up against other sliders in the youth age range, up to age 18. In the juniors worlds race, the competition was stiffer, as they were racing against more experienced sliders up to age 20. In that competition, held in Park City, Utah, on January 15 and 16, Krewson and Jeskanen held their own, finishing eighth overall.
On the cup circuit, Krewson and Jeskanen finished third overall among the 13 international doubles teams.
Making A Transition
Krewson began his luge career on a singles sled, but was moved to doubles and paired up with Jeskanen in April of 2012. Krewson is the top man on the sled, meaning he lays partially on top of Jeskanen, with his back to Jeskanen’s chest, although Krewson does have a “seat” on top of the front ridge of the sled. Krewson said it was “tricky” to explain how two sliders work together on a doubles sled, but said that he gives signals to Jeskanen concerning when to steer and how to move the sled.
“He has more steering power than I do because he’s closer to the sled,” Krewson said. “But he can’t really see.”
Krewson also summed it up this way: “People say that driving a doubles sled is like driving a bus, and a singles sled is more like a sports car.”
Making the transition to doubles is a move that Krewson and his family hope will pay dividends in the future. Krewson admitted that most luge athletes prefer to fly solo, but he said that being part of a doubles team is “a faster road to success.”
So far, it’s working out well for Krewson and Jeskanen. Krewson said that he and Jeskanen are a good fit because they have similar sliding “styles,” but both Krewson and his father, Steve Krewson, said the two have very different personalities.
“Tristan is more of an extrovert and Justin is more of an introvert,” Mr. Krewson said.
Mr. Krewson said that the transition to the doubles sled has been good for his son, and he was encouraged by what the USA Luge coaches said was the motivation behind their decision to move Krewson to doubles.
“They indicated that being chosen to be a top driver on a doubles sled was a big achievement,” he said, pointing out that the USA’s only Olympic medalist in luge—Mark Grimmette—was the top driver on a luge doubles sled.
Fred Zimny, the junior national team coach, has been working with Krewson since that fateful day in Farmingville, and said that Krewson seemed to have a natural affinity for the sport from the beginning.
“He had good position on the sled and good control initially, and if we don’t have to teach that, we’re ahead of the game,” Zimny said in a phone interview last week.
Zimny said that Krewson and Jeskanen’s ability to finish third in their first season on the world cup circuit was impressive.
“It was a challenge for those guys,” he said. “Just starting doubles, it’s not easy in the best of circumstances, and every week they were at a brand new track having to learn the track in just 10 runs. For them to finish third overall was fantastic.”
Zimny added that Krewson’s personality has helped him advance quickly in the sport, in addition to any natural talent he already possessed.