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Gustafson wraps up luge season with 2 more victories

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MASSENA - When a fellow junior luger took a tumble last weekend in Lake Placid, Massena Central High School junior Johnny Gustafson took advantage of the situation and pulled off the upset.

Johnny took the title at the 2014 Norton Junior National Championships at the Olympic Sports Complex on Sunday, featuring the country’s premiere athletes born in 1994 or later.

The event spanned Saturday and Sunday with heats on each day. During the final heat of the weekend, favorite Riley Stohr briefly fell off his sled, leaving the door open for Johnny.

“I was really surprised because I didn’t know what was going on. When I heard Riley had flipped, I was sad for him but mainly happy also because I knew I had a great chance of winning,” Johnny said. “(My runs) were all really clean, really consistent. There were basically no problems, but just really little things that I could have done a bit better.”

Johnny finished with a winning time of 3:06.478 while Riley posted a finish of 3:08.301.

The champion’s father, Eric Gustafson, was in attendance for Sunday’s finish and agreed that his son had a near flawless performance.

“Johnny’s times were really, really competitive. He had four really beautiful, solid, clean runs and that’s half the battle,” Mr. Gustafson said. “Riley is a year older and has been at it a year longer. His times have been a little faster than Johnny’s over the season.”

With the conclusion of the Norton Junior National Championships, the 2013-2014 luge season is officially over. It was quite a year for the recently turned 17-year-old luger.

Johnny finished seventh, ninth and 14th in Sigulda, Latvia, Koenigssee, Germany and Oberhof, Germany respectively, as a part of the Youth A World Cup. He also came in 22nd place at the Junior World Championships in Igls, Austria.

He capped off the campaign with victories in the Youth and Junior Nationals recently, while also competing in the Senior Nationals.

“We do offseason training in the summer and I will probably do a lot of training for two months in Lake Placid. For now I am doing track and will probably start going to the weight room soon,” Johnny said. “The next competition will be sometime in January or if we go out earlier it will be sometime in November.”

Massena Central High School Principal Patrick Farrand said of Gustafson’s accomplishments, “The school is very proud of him and his efforts.”

Two of the U.S. lugers at the Sochi Winter Olympics are teammates of Johnny’s. Tucker West and Aiden Kelly are just one and two years Johnny’s senior and it was Mr. Kelly who informed the Massena native of his surprise victory.

“He knows all of the competitive athletes, the Olympic athletes. Two of them - Aiden Kelly and Tucker West – are his teammates and he knows well. Aiden was the one who told Johnny that he won,” Mr. Gustafson said. “He was the one that told Johnny that Riley had a bad start and that he had won.”

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