By KEVIN ROBERTS
Austin Florian grew up skiing at Mount Southington and dreamed of being an Olympian ski racer.
He skied all over the northeastern United States and competed for the Southington High School and Clarkson University ski teams (Potsdam, N.Y.). Five years ago, Florian made the fateful decision to try skeleton racing. In a sport that’s all about going fast, Florian wants to go faster.
Skeleton racing is a solo bobsledding event without the “safety” of a bobsled. An individual races down a track on a small sled, called a skeleton, hurtling down a frozen track at speeds up to 90 miles per hour. The skeleton sled is thinner and heavier than the luge sled, and unlike the luge event, skeleton riders plummet down the mountain head first.
Florian says that success is all about staying composed. “I would say that the most difficult part of skeleton racing is maintaining a calm, even head in all situations,” he said. “When things go wrong, they go wrong quickly. You need to be able to think ahead and problem-solve quickly.”
There is some fear, but it doesn’t overwhelm Florian at all.
“Every now and then something will definitely scare me a little bit, but it’s so thrilling to go that fast that it just makes me want to go even faster,” Florian said.
Florian’s desire to go faster, and his hard work, earned him a spot on the United States national skeleton racing team that will compete during the BMW International Bobsled & Skeleton Federation World Cup season. He finished second overall in the team trials.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted since I started the sport five years ago,” he said, “but now that I’m here I have a lot of work to do and still have a lot to learn at this level of racing.”
Florian, who trains at the Southington YMCA and the Southington High School track, will be racing with the national team all winter long. The first World Cup competition is on Dec. 15 in Winterberg, Germany. Florian will be training and racing with the national team throughout the season.
The World Cup season wraps up in February in Lake Placid, N.Y. Florian hopes to make it to the World Cup championships in Whistler, British Columbia, in March. Florian’s not the first from Southington to take part in World Cup events. Stacey Blumer-Evans competed in freestyle skiing’s World Cup events for years, and she also made it to the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. The Olympics is a dream destination for Florian.
“That would for sure mean a lot to me,” Florian said. “I grew up ski racing at Mount Southington as well and always wanted to be an Olympic ski racer. The fact that it is a serious possibility in another sport is an amazing opportunity.”
Skeleton racing is a 100 percent self-funded sport, and Florian appreciates any financial support that he gets. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
“There is always availability for advertising or sponsorship opportunities,” Florian said. “Any help is greatly appreciated.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.