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Video: US Olympic aerialist Ryan St. Onge and luger Erin Hamlin

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Mike Groll/AP/File

(Read caption) US skier Ryan St. Onge practices aerials for freestyle World Cup skiing in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

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Ever wonder why or how some Winter Olympic athletes can bring themselves to perform complex acrobatics in skis? Or slide at 90 m.p.h. down an icy track in nothing but a helmet and Lycra onesie? We do.

To find out what motivates these athletes, we spoke with two world champions, aerialist Ryan St. Onge and luger Erin Hamlin, while they trained at the US Olympic Training Park this past fall. The two shared with the Monitor the pressures, emotions, and challenges they’ve learned to face down at the base of every jump and the start of every run.

St. Onge, who announced through his website that he’s preparing to unveil a quintuple-twisting triple back somersault, describes the mental checklist he’s developed to perform at his best. Watch to learn about what keeps the world’s number two aerialist in a sport that most of us watching from our couches would describe as, well, crazy.

Hamlin, who competes in an equally extreme event, explains the poise demanded to luge on a championship level and the importance of relaxing -- yes, relaxing – when sliding at near triple digit speeds.

St. Onge and Hamlin, both former Olympians, will be up against fierce competition in their respective sports. Canada has invested heavily in its “Own the Podium” program while European athletes are consistently dominant in a slew of the traditional skiing and sliding events.

Visit our Vancouver Olympics homepage for complete coverage. Follow staff writer and former Olympic contender Christa Case Bryant as she tweets live from the Games.

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