BERWICK — Even from the age of six, Berwick native Jayson Terdiman had Olympic rings in his eyes. He made his own mock USA uniforms from plain white T-shirts, complete with a marker-drawn Olympic insignia on it. He stood on a makeshift podium waving, basking in the imaginary applause of the Lillehammer and Barcelona crowds.
The feeling was fleeting, surreal.
Flash forward 19 years and Jayson Terdiman finds himself on the mountain, staring down at his childhood imaginations. Terdiman will be competing in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday in the men’s doubles luge.
Waiting at the bottom of the hill will be his parents, Jay and Kathryn Terdiman – the two responsible for fostering, encouraging and fueling his ascent to the sport’s top level.
“We are excited to see him achieve his dreams to medal in the Olympics,” Jay Terdiman said. “That would be awesome. There is no way in the world we could dare to miss it.”
Young Jayson just needed a sport, an open window for his Olympic dreams. Football was his favorite at the time. Jay and Kathryn knew their son was too diminutive to ever represent the USA – let alone George Curry’s Bulldogs – in some fantasy world where American football is an Olympic sport.
And then Jayson’s opportunity opened in all things but a company newsletter. Kathryn, a project manager at Verizon Wireless, which at the time sponsored the sport, saw a blurb in a company pamphlet advertising youth academy tryouts for the luge — a half-brained Olympic-affiliated sport that torpedoes riders feet-first on a sled down the world’s most daunting mountains.
Jayson tried out for the first time, without avail, in Philadelphia when he was 11.
“They were looking for young athletes,” Jay said. “I went with him to the tryout. He loved it. I wanted to try it.”
A year later, he tried out again in Syracuse, N.Y. This time he received a call back from the sport’s top U.S. organization.
“Once I realized that of the 1,000-plus kids that tried out for the team only 25 of them were called to the development camp did it hit me that this is could be a reality,” Jay said.
The three of them then began the routine 363-mile trek up Interstate 87 to Lake Placid, N.Y. to train on the track. Jayson juggled school work and luge, spending several weeks at a time in the Adirondacks flying down the tightest of turns.
Back at home, his parents felt natural longing for their son as he spent more and more time in Lake Placid.
“That’s 13 hours of driving round-trip,” Jay said. “Sometimes on those trips back when I’d drop him off at the Academy, leaving him there and going back home was hard for me as a father. So much so as long as he kept up with school, I was fine.”
In no way was it an easy ride to Sochi. He and partner Christian Niccum finished bronze at the 2010 World Cup. They faced stiff competition at the Olympic qualifying in Park City, Utah, and a raceoff — the sport’s equivalent of penalty kicks – with Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk would determine who represents the USA in Sochi.
Kathryn traveled to Park City. Jay, a FedEx driver, stayed behind in Pennsylvania, anxiously twitching his thumbs at the results. Kathryn called him to tell him to pack his backs for Russia.
“It was unbelievable,” Jay said. “I was jumping out of my skin, telling everyone that my son – my son – is going to the Olympics.”
Back at home, Kathryn was “so pumped she’s over the moon,” according to her husband. They had to book tickets even before Park City. With the Olympics taking place over Valentine’s Day, Jay had to set aside his vacation more than a year in advance.
Since she came back, Kathryn’s been handling the nine-day itinerary. They kept in touch with Jayson, who was training in Austria, via Facetime and Facebook. They left last Tuesday, and they will begin their return on Feb. 14.
Already having had attending the Opening Ceremony, the two have a crammed schedule around the doubles luge events. They have tickets to see the men’s downhill skiing, skeleton, luge and short-track speedskating races. They’ll cap off their trip by spending two days in Moscow.
Jayson’s luge successes have made jetsetters out of the Berwick couple. They have already traveled internationally to Italy, Germany, Ireland and England to watch luge races.
At the races, Jay likes to sneak to a certain loop where the G-force gives him a three-or-four second window to watch the races. It’s a time trial sport. Often times, depending how many lugers have gone before them, it’s difficult to tell how successful or unsuccessful each run is.
“It’s not a spectator-friendly sport,” Jay said. “Some places you can see for a full second. Some for a half second. Usually, we go to the finish line and find a spot in the crowds.”
The two of them say they are ecstatic to see their son whiz past them at speeds of 90 miles per hour.
On Wednesday, they’ll be found at the bottom of the hill, waiting to embrace Jayson at the end of his races. It’s a short window for them to see their son. But enough for them to get a high-five and give him a hug.
“It’s insane,” Jay said. “I can’t wrap my head around it. Once I’m there, I’ll be able to realize what has actually happened. We’re in Russia. This is happening. Jayson made it.”