On her way to Olympics, luger Sweeney relieved


NEW YORK (AP) — Megan Sweeney figures the toughest part of the Olympic journey is over.

Sweeney was one of the 10 USA Luge athletes introduced Friday as nominees to the U.S. Olympic team, completing a whirlwind week for the 22-year-old from Suffield, Conn. On Wednesday, she had to beat two teammates — her younger sister Emily among them — to make the team. Two days later, the family was together in New York, already knee-deep in plans to attend February’s Vancouver Games.

Hard feelings? Sibling rivalry?

Not a chance, which was something for the Sweeneys to truly celebrate.

“It definitely made things more difficult that the chance wasn’t there for both of us to go,” said 16-year-old Emily Sweeney, a high school junior who was within a smidge of time away from making the Olympic team. “I think we did very well all season. At the end of the day, we always knew, we’re sisters and we’re going to support each other, no matter what.”

Simply put, Emily Sweeney knows this is big sister’s time.

So she’s going to sit back, relax and enjoy the entire ride.

“Megan probably had the toughest task of anyone to get here,” USA Luge executive director Ron Rossi said.

The Olympic trip will be the first for Megan Sweeney, who went to the 2006 Turin Games as a spectator. She and her sister were in the Olympic mix all season, but when neither met the qualification criteria to automatically ensure a spot on the U.S. team, they needed a race-off to fill the final roster spot.

“It wasn’t ideal, obviously,” Megan Sweeney said. “The easy way would have been for both of us to make it. But I think now, we’re just moving forward and we’re just so excited and our family is calling 24-7, making plans. ‘Do you have a condo where you’re staying? How are you getting there? How can we all be there?’ It’s at that point where we’re all just so elated.”

Count Emily Sweeney among those having that emotion.

Sure, there were tears on Wednesday when it was over, although the majority of those came from the winner. Megan Sweeney’s final two-run time on the track in Lillehammer, Norway, was 1 minute, 38.003 seconds. Emily Sweeney was 0.165 seconds behind, finishing second.

On Friday, laughter and smiles prevailed.

That doesn’t mean Wednesday wasn’t extraordinarily tough — even for their teammates.

“I will say it was very stressful and I wasn’t even involved in the race,” women’s world champion and two-time Olympian Erin Hamlin said. “I was just very happy for it to be over, for my sake and for theirs. But I’m very impressed with Emily. She’s still very young, and getting that close, it’s very respectable and I’m sure in four years she’s going to be one of the top dogs and it’s going to be awesome.”

Just like Megan Sweeney did four years ago, Emily Sweeney is heading to these upcoming Olympics to watch and learn.

Oh, and do some rooting, too.

“These two girls competing against each other, going for the last spot, what can you say?” said their father, Larry Sweeney. “When they called to tell me, ‘You have an Olympian’ and I heard one of them say ‘Me.’ So I had to say, ‘Who’s me?’ That’s what family is about right there. They competed hard against each other, but the way it happened, they were going to support each other.”

Hamlin and Julia Clukey join Megan Sweeney on the U.S. women’s roster. For the American men, it’ll be Tony Benshoof, Chris Mazdzer and Bengt Walden heading to the Vancouver Games, and in doubles, the U.S. teams will be Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin along with Christian Niccum and Dan Joye.

“I couldn’t ask for better teammates right now,” Megan Sweeney said. “You know, maybe my sister. But that’ll happen.”