In mid-January the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) provided an opportunity to interview Sgt. Emily Sweeney, a graduate of Suffield High School and a two-time Olympic luger. WTNH Channel 8 in Connecticut, KOAA News an NBC affiliate in Colorado Springs, CO, and the Military Times were joined by the Observer for this interview.
Sgt. Sweeney is based at Fort Carson in Colorado and is an MP. The Army’s WCAP program provides a unique opportunity to be a part of a unit that trains and prepares elite athletes. The program has 80 soldiers and staff trainers at Fort Carson who are part of this exceptional program. The program includes active duty, National Guard and active reserve soldiers. Sweeney spends her time in luge training between Colorado and Lake Placid, N.Y. where the luge tracks are located.
Sgt. Sweeney has spent the last 18 years working toward her Olympic goals and expressed her appreciation for all the support she has received over the years to help make her Olympic goals a reality. She followed in the footsteps of her sister Megan, who also competed in the Olympics in the luge. She was also appreciative that the Suffield school system gave her the flexibility early on in her career to continue to train and go to school as well.
Later, Emily joined the Amy National Guard, and then became an active duty soldier. Being a soldier and an elite athlete doesn’t give Sgt. Sweeney a lot of time for other endeavors, but she loves working with her team and recognizes that sports and military values have characteristics that are well-paired. Working with WCAP has shown her how to bring out the best in herself as well as in others.
At the time of this interview, Sgt. Sweeney had the final World Cup competition ahead of her before the Olympic games begin in February.
When asked about what she might say to young girls about what it was like to be a soldier, an Olympian and a female, an unusual mix, she gave two pieces of advice. 1. Don’t count yourself out, and 2. You are your biggest competition. Think about how you can improve yourself.
Luge is an event that requires balance, control and speed. She’s always looking to push the envelope for faster times. The luge event is one that is scored to the thousandths of seconds, so speed is crucial, and her goals for the Olympics certainly include earning a medal, but also to have four clean runs. Sgt. Sweeney was injured in a crash on one of her luge runs at the 2018 Olympics, resulting in multiple fractures in her back. Recovery took a great deal of time – not only the physical healing but the mental healing as well. She has come back strong to make her run at the medals.
While she is in China, much of her family will be joining in Lake Placid to cheer her on. It’s bittersweet for her to have reached this exceptional opportunity, but not be able to have her family support system there with her in Beijing because of COVID restrictions at the Olympic games.
Unfortunately, she did not make it into the top 20 single women’s lugers after the trial runs. A very disappointing result, but she has taken the disappointment in stride and continues to demonstrate the determination and the attitude that one can learn from every experience. She demonstrates the true Olympic spirit.