Aidan Kelly broke a vertebra in his back a few years ago and has suffered countless injuries since then, including a broken ankle.
He attended West Islip High School but didn't graduate from the school; he moved away from his family to Lake Placid, N.Y., when he was 15. And it was all for the love of a sport: luge racing, an extreme form of sled racing.
His sacrifices were rewarded Saturday night after World Cup results in Park City, Utah. He qualified as one of 10 lugers who will represent the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"It's my dream. It's my life," said Kelly, 19, in a phone interview. "I've made so many sacrifices and have suffered so many broken bones and crashed countless times. You lose so many races, it makes you try to stick around to feel what it's like to win."
Kelly isn't the only Long Island product on the U.S. Olympic luge team. Matthew Mortensen, from Huntington Station, qualified with partner Preston Griffall in doubles after finishing in ninth place with a two-run combined time of 1:28.080 in Friday's Viessmann Luge World Cup at the Utah Olympic Park.
In December 2009, Mortensen and Griffall missed out on the 2010 Winter Olympics in a race-off in Lillehammer, Norway.
"It's still pretty surreal because I know I'm telling people I made it to the Olympics, but I don't think it will really sink in until I am there," said Mortensen, 28, who moved to Lake Placid four years ago.
Much like Kelly, Mortensen, who graduated from St. Dominic High School, suffered his share of injuries after luging for 16 years but never gave up his dream of making it to the Olympics.
"It's a huge lifetime achievement," said Mortensen, who said he joined the National Guard in 2010 and utilized its World Class Athlete Program for financial support.
Kelly said he became interested in luge after seeing a commercial advertising the sport while he watched the 2006 Winter Games with his mother. He researched the sport and soon attended a tryout in Farmingville. He received an invitation to attend a screening camp in Lake Placid, performed well and was asked to be a member of the U.S. National Junior Luge Development team. His luge career has taken off since.
"I've always liked dangerous stuff," Kelly said. "I guess there's nothing else that really compares to riding a sled down ice at 90 miles per hour. It's a pretty extreme form of sledding."
Instead of graduating from West Islip, Kelly rejected the life of an ordinary teen and now lives in Lake Placid. He said he graduated from the National Sports Academy, a boarding school and training center that houses winter sports athletes.
Kelly became one of the youngest men ever to qualify for a spot on the U.S. Olympic luge team, according to press officer Sandy Caligiore, despite crashing and failing to finish Saturday night. With a 14th-place finish and two 21st-place finishes in recent weeks, Kelly satisfied the qualification criteria.
"It's almost like I knew there was something more in store for me," Kelly said. "West Islip is a great town, but I don't play lacrosse."