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Two LI Olympians are first on new rides at Splish Splash

Kidsday reporters, from left, Matthew Vilbig, Kaila Hazarian,

Kidsday reporters, from left, Matthew Vilbig, Kaila Hazarian, Kimberly Lopez and Ryan Damers with Long Island Olympic lugers Justin Krewson, left, and Matt Mortensen at Splish Splash Water Park in Riverhead. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

Before taking on the new rides at Splish Splash, we were able to meet and interview two Long Island athletes who have competed in the Olympics. We met Justin Krewson and Matt Mortensen. Justin is from Eastport and Matt is from Huntington Station. Justin and Matt competed on the U.S. luge team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

When Justin is not practicing luge, he is a member of the Lake Placid fire department, and one of his proudest accomplishments is becoming an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts. When Matt is not competing, he is an electrician in the Army National Guard and is a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. They were the first two to actually go down the new rides at Splish Splash: Bombs Away and Riptide. They loved both of these new rides.

What is one more goal you hope to accomplish in life?

Justin: This summer I am actually going to school. I was able to be an Eagle Scout and an Olympian, and I look forward to graduating from school. It would be a huge plus for me.

What advice would you have for kids like us who would also like to become Olympic athletes?

Matt: The advice that I would give you guys if you want to become an Olympic athlete is to follow your dreams, stay motivated and stay determined. You may have people who will tell you that you can’t do it along the way. Don’t listen to those people, and keep going the way you are going.

What is your favorite memory of the Olympics?

Justin: All of the Olympics have a different kind of pin that they give out to the athletes, and you get to trade these pins with the other athletes and the people competing. It is a really great way to meet a whole bunch of different people from different countries and different sports. It is a great way to bring the world a lot closer together.

Matt: I love the competition side of the Olympics. I am a really big competitor. I had a great time in our own discipline and especially in the team relay. I think it is a really fun competition because it incorporates one athlete from each discipline, so it is a little different from the individual competition because we are racing for ourselves. It is the one race where we can race as a team, and it is very spectator-friendly.

What made you decide to switch from singles to doubles?

Justin: Everyone starts off in singles, but it is just based off height. You switch once you get a little more experience. It is something that you decide on your height.

Would you call being an athlete a hobby or a job?

Matt: At this level I would call what we do a job, although it is something that we do because we have the passion for it. We don’t get paid to be an athlete. You have to do it out of your own internal motivation and passion for the sport. It is like a job because it takes up a lot of your time. You have to make certain sacrifices along the way. You don’t really get to see your family and have to stay in certain locations. You travel a lot, so you are living out of a bag a lot. There is some give and take to being an Olympic athlete.

How did you get interested in luge and how old were you?

Justin: I first started when I was 12 years old. There was a program called the Slider Search. This program goes around the country and lets kids between the ages of 9 and 13 try out on wheeled sleds. So the same sleds we use in the winter, they just put some wheels on them and have you go through some cones and evaluate you from there.

How did you feel to make the Olympics?

Matt: It feels pretty good!

Justin: This was my first Olympics. . . . When I first made it, it was a shock and a relief. It didn’t really hit me that I was an Olympian until I was at the Olympics.

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