6:42 PM EST, December 7, 2013
Aidan Kelly is Tucker West's roommate and friend. Tucker's dad, Brett, describes Kelly as "his second son."
"We love Aidan," Brett said, laughing. "But he could take Tucker's Olympic spot. So right now, we're not best friends."
Brett West, of Ridgefield, was joking, sort of. It's a very tense time now for the U.S. luge team, on both the men's and women's sides. Kelly and West, who is 18 years old, are both in the mix to make the U.S. Olympic team for the Sochi Winter Games, which open Feb. 7.
The U.S. Olympic luge team will be announced on Dec. 14 in Park City, Utah.
Three of the five U.S. senior team members will make it. On the women's side, Emily Sweeney of Suffield is not exactly out of contention for the Olympic team, but others must not perform well for her to make it to a race-off for a spot on the team.
"They dedicate their lives to this sport," said Brett West, who was inspired after watching the sport in the 2006 Winter Olympics to build a luge track in his backyard. "These poor kids. It's a strange dichotomy. Your roommate, who's your best friend, is your rival for five weeks. They're surviving."
Tucker West, who started participating in luge at age 6 in his backyard, is one of the younger Olympic hopefuls. He will be featured on a Nickelodeon Olympics special Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Last week, West finished 11th in a World Cup race in Winterberg, Germany, and on Friday, he finished 11th again in another World Cup race in Whistler, British Columbia, putting himself ahead of his three other teammates for two Olympic team berths. Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y., has already secured a berth. There is one race left, in Park City, next week.
"It's a good feeling," West said earlier this week before the Whistler World Cup race. "Back in middle school, people would ask me, 'When are you going to make the Olympics?' And I said, 'I'll shoot for 2018.' It's a big surprise."
This is West's first season on the senior circuit; he mainly raced with the juniors until this fall.
Right now, he said of the feelings between teammates, "It's a little cutthroat. We're all best friends. It's a little tense, for sure."
Kate Hansen is good friends with Sweeney, the 2013 Junior World Champion. The two had a race-off in Winterburg, Germany, last week and Hansen won, all but eliminating Sweeney from Olympic team consideration, although there is a slim possibility that there could be another race-off Dec. 14 if the team isn't determined by then.
"I'm emotionally drained to say the least," Hansen said after the race-off. "Emily deserves it just as much, so it was hard to beat her out on something we have worked so hard for together. This is the first time it hasn't really felt good to win."
In 2010, Sweeney was 16 years old and lost out to her older sister Megan for a spot on the Vancouver Olympic team.
Brett West, who participates in luge himself with the Adirondack Luge Club in Lake Placid, just got back from spending time in Austria and Germany with Tucker. Things were looking good for his son. But until the team is unveiled, nothing is certain.
"We'll know in 11 days," he said Wednesday. "It's looking better but it's certainly not wrapped up. It's going to be a nerve-racking 11 days."
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