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U.S. luger Niccum slides off to do his homework

By Martyn Herman

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - American luger Christian Niccum could not even head off for a consolation beer after missing his last chance at an Olympic medal in the team relay on Thursday - he had homework to do.

The 36-year-old three-times Olympian was sliding the doubles leg with partner Jayson Terdiman as part of the U.S. team which finished sixth behind Germany, who claimed gold ahead of Russia and Latvia, in the newly introduced event.

After completing what could be the final slide of his long career, Niccum was asked what life had in store for him next.

"For me it's getting back to my wife (Bobbie Jo) and kids and a job and school work I've gotta do. I have homework I've gotta do right after I get back tonight," he told Reuters.

"I don't have my undergrad yet so I'm working towards my business degree at DeVry (University). I've been behind.

"It shouldn't be like that, I'm 36 years of age and I should be done, but I had too much fun in my 20s!

"So I'm making up for lost time. It's long overdue."

Niccum's determination to pursue what he calls "every kid's dream" has involved many sacrifices.

"Sweat, blood and tears," said Niccum, who has had numerous surgeries and once sold truck tires to finance his luge dreams.

"We've been on the road since October travelling around, it's tough doing luge. Lots of cities have ice skating rinks but for us we are on the road, we're gone," he said.

Niccum might be about to swap sliding down an ice chute at 80 mph for a more normal life, but he hopes that the sport of luge can build on the successful introduction of the team relay to the Olympic program.

The atmosphere at the Sanki Sliding Center on Thursday was superb as fans took to the three-legged format which sees a female rider, a male rider and finally a doubles pair hurtle down with all three runs added together to form a total time.

One novelty was seeing the athletes slap a pad in the finish area to signal for their team mate to launch off.

"I wish that pad at the bottom was part of the sport," he said.

"I've said it to the head guys at the FIL (International Luge Federation) you should do it and they said 'no it's a special thing for the relay' but I think it would be neat.

"It's tough watching luge because it's so fast and everyone looks similar but fans can relate to hitting that pad and stopping that clock."

(Editing by Mark Pangallo)

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