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On The Right Track

On The Right Track

Turin, Italy

This time Adam Rosen heard from the American coaches.

Twelve years after he became interested in luge while watching the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, eight years after he began training with the U.S. Luge Association, four years after he was effectively dropped from the U.S. squad when luge officials failed to notify him which athletes were being promoted to the Olympics-eligible senior roster, three years after he qualified for England’s national team with dual U.S.-British citizenship and one year after he qualified for the Olympics, Rosen raced in Olympic competition for the first time this week.

He finished 16th in a field of 36 in his singles event, beating two of the U.S. team’s three members.

Afterward, the American sledders and coaches offered their best wishes.

"They all congratulated me," Rosen said.A resident of New Rochelle and a 2002 graduate of New Rochelle High School, where he played football for one season, Rosen is among scores of Olympic athletes who switch athletic allegiance either because of dual citizenship (his mother, Gay, is a native of England) or because they move to another country.

A relative newcomer to the sport, young at 21 by its standards, with most world-class lugers not peaking until their 30s, Rosen did not expect to be in contention for a medal at the competition at Cesana Pariol, two hours west of Turin in the Alps.

"I’m very happy," said Rosen, 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, whose best previous showing in international competition was 18th in the World Cup last year. His personal goal for the Olympics was a top-25 finish.

"I’m still very young," he acknowledged. "Lugers take a long time to get good at this."

The 2010 Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver, and Rosen plans to be there.

"My best results are yet to come," he said.

Interested in speed (he enjoys roller coasters, and plans to study for his pilot’s license this year) Rosen found irresistible a sport in which participants barrel down a mile-long, banked icy track at rates approaching 90 miles an hour.

"I love the sport," he said.

Some Canadian lugers, with whom the British team trains, have dubbed him "the fastest Jew on ice," he said with a laugh.

Rosen began training at Lake Placid, N.Y., and made the juniors squad, which develops athletes for the World Cup, Olympics and other international events. But in ’02, he heard nothing when luge officials made their choices for promotions from the junior to senior roster. Rosen figured out he had no luging future in the U.S.

"I was very upset," he said. "Luge was something I definitely wanted to be pursuing. I truly believed I could do it."

Why not pursue it for Great Britain, suggested Duncan Kennedy, a one-time Olympian and current luge coach. Kennedy knew about Rosen’s dual citizenship option.

Rosen contacted British luge officials. Come to meets in Europe and we’ll watch you race, they told him. He did and qualified for the British team.

Rosen trained full time in Norway, Germany, Latvia and other lands, his parents helping with the expenses.

Two weeks ago, with a break from racing in Germany, he visited Buchenwald, the first site of a concentration camp he had ever seen.

"It was depressing," said Rosen, whose family lost a distant relative in the Holocaust. "It was something I thought I should see."

Two years ago, he said he started thinking about Turin. He wouldn’t have to wait till 2010.

In the four races over two days of competition this week, his times and standing improved after each race.

Rosen would say "a little prayer" before setting out on the track each time, he said. In his pocket he kept a small, gold mezuzah, a bar mitzvah present.

"I was nervous before the first race and the last race," he said.

Then his last race was over. He had raced well and had not crashed. As his sled slowed to a stop, "I looked up: my family was cheering for me," he said.

His parents and girlfriend had made the trip.

Rosen said, "Then it sank in: I am an Olympian. It’s an amazing experience."

At night he celebrated with his teammates."We just downed a couple of beers," Rosen said.

Did he feel uneasy racing against the U.S. team, against athletes who could have been his teammates?

No, he said, all the American racers were gracious to him.

He kept improving over the last few years, passing the times of some American racers, he said, because "I never stopped trying."

The U.S. coaches told Rosen he was "sliding very well," high praise for a luger. No one asked outright if he would consider racing for the U.S. next time, he said, "but I sensed it."

If he makes the Olympics in four years, Rosen said it will be again for Britain: the country was loyal to him.

Rosen said he had no "I told you so" remarks for the U.S. coaches who didn’t think he was good enough four years ago.

"I don’t like to brag," he said. "I let my results speak for me."

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