LAKE PLACID, New York (Dec. 15, 2017) -- Sgt. Emily Sweeney became the first Soldier-athlete officially nominated to the 2018 United States Olympic Team.
Without putting a luge sled on the ice Dec. 14 in Lake Placid, Sweeney, a military police Soldier in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, and Summer Britcher, a civilian from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, joined defending Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin on the 2018 U.S. Olympic women's luge squad.
The World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, is a military detachment run by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. It was established in 1994 to support Public Law 84-11, which allows the Army to provide Soldiers -- including those in the National Guard and Reserves -- an opportunity to train for and participate in the Olympics, Pan American Games, and World Championships. The Paralympics were later added to the mix.
Sweeney, 22, of Suffield, Connecticut, claimed two "B" tiers in the five-race World Cup fall series to help secure her first Olympic berth, following in the footsteps of her sister, Megan Sweeney, an Olympian at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Sweeney also won the first World Cup gold medal of her career with a victory in the women's luge sprint race Nov. 26 in Winterberg, Germany.
In the U.S. Olympic Committee's selection process for luge, an "A" tier is attained by placing among the top five at a World Cup event and a "B" tier is attained by placing sixth through 10th on the same circuit.
WCAP Soldiers balance athletic training with their military careers, and are Soldiers first. They represent the United States and the U.S. Army, maintain their military occupational skills, and often return to traditional military units when they are not competing or training. They foster "esprit de corps" within the Army by providing a sense of pride and ownership in Soldiers watching the Olympics and other international sporting events.
Hamlin, of Remsen, New York, secured her fourth Olympic berth with a World Cup fourth place last month, giving her "A" tier status. Britcher, headed to her second Olympics, had a World Cup bronze medal and a fifth place to secure a pair of "A" tier qualifications.
All nominations to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Team.
Instead of racing this weekend for their Olympic spots, the qualifying procedure allowed the trio a stress-free experience. All three 2018 Olympic nominees watched the Nations Cup events from the sidelines as their "A" seed status allowed them to bypass qualifying on a cold night on Mount Van Hoevenberg, site of the Lake Placid track.
Only Raychel Germaine of Greenville, South Carolina, could have infiltrated that trio by bumping Sweeney or Britcher. Germaine needed to advance from Nations Cup qualifying and score a top-five finish in Saturday's Viessmann World Cup. Germaine, however, finished outside the qualifying group and did not advance.
On the men's side, several Soldiers remain in contention to earn Olympic luge berths this weekend in Lake Placid.
Sgt. Matt Mortensen, a 2014 Soldier-Olympian from Huntington Station, New York, and civilian Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pennsylvania, are the top-seeded U.S. duo armed with an "A" tier in men's doubles.
Sgt. Jake Hyrns, a Soldier in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program from Muskegon, Michigan, and civilian teammate Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah, remain in contention for a doubles berth. WCAP Sgt. Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah, remains in singles contention.
Winter Olympic and luge fans can watch live coverage Saturday from Lake Placid on http://www.OlympicChannel.com. NBC Sports Network will broadcast Sunday, Dec. 17, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. ET.
Editor's note: Reporting for this article was provided by Sandy Caligiore of USA Luge Media Relations.