Future New Zealand Winter Olympics athletes could be trained in Naseby after what is believed to be the only natural ice luge in the Southern Hemisphere was opened at the weekend.
Overnight rain on Friday might have diluted the snow and ice but it failed to dampen the enthusiasm of those at the luge opening.
Nearly 800 people attended the Have a Go ice festival, which included free curling, skating and luging, while more than 300 interested spectators watched as children and adults piloted wooden sleds around 10 curves on the $200,000 360m ice and snow track behind the Maniototo Ice Rink.
President of the ice rink and luge committee Kyeburn farmer Jock Scott described the opening of the luge as a dream come true.
"This near-completed luge, like our magnificent indoor curling rink, is a first for the Southern Hemisphere and we hope that, like our curling members have done, we will one day have lugers who will go on to represent New Zealand at the Winter Olympics." Mr Scott suggested the luge was not the first in Naseby.
"I've been told that at one stage in this town's history, the children of Naseby had their own natural luge track, or sledging as it was called then, which started at the top of Oughter St and that the longest recorded run finished down Corromore St not far short of where the Naseby hospital used to be." The complex will be completed when freezing pipes are installed beneath the luge and lights are erected alongside it.
New Zealand Olympic Association president Eion Edgar said a snow sports programme in Central Otago was planned for next year and Naseby would play a significant part.
Next year Naseby could expect to hold curling competitions, host races on the luge and possibly have ice hockey on the ice rink, he said.
Mr Balme presented volunteers Kim Vowles, Ray Ward and Jock Scott, bronze medals of honour from the Federation of International Luge for their work on the luge concept.
- The Southland Times
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