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Watts looks ahead to FIL season

Luger moved to Calgary for training



Jumping back into a sport after six months away can leave those athletes shaking off some rust or taking a few practice sessions to get fully back in the groove.

It's a feeling Reid Watts had been accustomed to after a summer away, but as he prepares for the 2017-18 FIL World Cup season in Calgary, he said he feels as comfortable on his luge — a brand-new one with a larger pod — as he did when the last campaign wrapped in the spring.

"The first few days were really good. I felt like I clicked well on my sled, my new sled," he said. "I wasn't set back as much as I was in previous years. Getting back on my sled, when you've been off it for six months, that can be a big setback to your sliding at the beginning of the year.

"I felt I started just where I left off."

Watts said he's particularly enthused about his new sled, which suits his body better than his previous ride.

"Even the small things in this sport can really make a difference," he said. "It's a little more comfortable. There's a lot of room to lay back.

"A major key to the sport is being relaxed as all this other stuff is going on."

Another change for Watts is that he's now based out of Calgary instead of Whistler as he has now completed high school. While there have been some adjustments, Watts feels the move is for the better and will help him attain his luging goals.

"I graduated and I came out here," he said. "In early July, I was out here training with the national team and I feel like I made a lot of progress.

"It's different, for sure, especially being in a big city, and there aren't a lot of mountains around. It's a good place for my sport because it put a lot of distractions, like mountain biking in the summer, away."

While some national-team athletes double up their training with post-secondary education after moving to Calgary, Watts said he's focusing solely on his sport this year, but will start thinking about taking some classes next season.

Being in Alberta will also help him continue to connect with some of the more experienced sliders on the team. Watts said he benefitted greatly from being around them in 2016-17 and will look for more guidance going forward.

"Last year was a big learning year for me. I was spending the whole season with the season team, so I used it to my best advantage to learn as much as I could," he said. "This year is definitely going to be based on more consistent results within that top 15 to 20 range, hopefully even better."

And if he does continue to turn heads, Watts could find himself named to the Olympic team going to PyeongChang, South Korea in February, a full quadrennial before he was anticipated to contend.

"It's going to be a very quick selections trial this year," he said, noting five days of racing are slated in Calgary starting this week before additional competitions here in Whistler next week and then in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Watts noted he also received a $6,000 grant from the Canadian Athletes Now Fund for Olympic hopefuls. Marielle Thompon and Yuki Tsubota also received funding through the program.