Massena Olympian reflects on his experience in Beijing

Massena luge competitor Jonny Gustafson reflects on his experience at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 6:53 AM EDT
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It’s been two months since Massena native Jonny Gustafson competed in luge at the Beijing Olympics and he’s had some time to rest and reflect on his experience there. Emily Griffin sat down with the Olympian at the Lake Placid Luge training facility to talk about it.

LAKE PLACID, New York (WWNY) - “My name’s Jonny Gustafson and I’m an Olympian -- 2022 Beijing Olympian.”

The hometown hero of Massena is back home after his debut as a Team USA Olympian.

“I do the sport of luge, which is just sledding, but a little bit more complicated,” he said. “We go down this ice chute feet first, nothing really holding us back, just gravity taking us down.”

Gustafson got started with the sport at the age of 11. He fell in love with the sport and started competing nationally, then internationally until his most recent World Cup rankings came in for USA.

“I was number two and I was pretty excited about that,” he said.

He was off to the Olympics, making sure to mask up and COVID test every day

“Every day was like working through that, but it didn’t take away at all from actually being there,” he said.

“It felt a little overwhelming, a little star struck for some of the athletes, too, for sure, the Chloe Kims and Red Gerards and Shawn Whites and everything like that,” he said. “I was like, I’m just some guy, I’m just kinda here.”

Amid the whirlwind, his own achievements finally struck him during the opening ceremonies.

“Walking underneath those rings and hearing them say ‘Team USA,’ that’s when I was, like, ‘oh, that’s me.”

Then, just 24 hours after those ceremonies, it was go time.

“Before I know it, I’m sitting on the ice, the person in front of me is going down, I’m collecting my thoughts, grabbing my handles, and going, ‘okay, I’m about to do this.’”

His first run was his best. After three more, he earned 19th place at the games. Each of his runs was under a minute.

“So, I’ve been training for 12, 13 years for under four minutes.”

Since luge was one of the first sports to compete, he could enjoy the rest of his time watching other athletes, trading pins, and chasing down the Olympic mascot.

“We all became obsessed with the Olympic mascot, Bing Dwen Dwen, which is this panda here,” he said, pointing to a photo on his cell phone.

Gustafson says it was an incredible experience.. but he’s still the same Jonny he’s always been.

“Even though I am a professional athlete and am an Olympian now, I’m still just a hometown kid from Massena,” he said.

What’s next for Gustafson? Well, he’s deciding if he wants to go for another four years to aim for the next Winter Olympics in Italy.

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