“I am very excited to be in Beijing," she said. "There are a lot of steps that still need to happen to get there, but yes, I will be excited once we are there, and we have coaches, and everyone makes it through, yes. I think it won’t feel real until we’re there.
“I’m looking forward to that moment where I can just let it go and be in the moment, but that’s not gonna happen ’til I’m in China,” Sweeney said in a Zoom press conference on Monday.
She said a significant concern for her is staying safe from COVID.
“We see it everywhere. Athletes are getting COVID. Family, friends, everyone is testing positive right now, and that freaks me out,” Sweeney said. “I keep thinking of all the crappy situations I got through to get to this point, and that feels like such a big risk existing to just be existing in this world right now because I have that dream. I have that second bid in my grasp, really, and I am alarmingly aware of it.”
She is a member of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program. As such, she was not allowed to travel to Russia per the U.S. Department of Defense mandate, which is preventing military personnel from entering that country.
In addition, 30 sleds were held in Chinese customs, meaning several USA sliders were without their equipment for the next world cup races. They borrowed sleds from other countries. USA Luge equated it to “driving someone else’s Formula 1 car.”
“The challenges have come from every angle, really. It’s been unbelievable how many different challenges we, as a team, and we, as an international kind of group of athletes, have had to face this year,” Sweeney said.
On top of that, trying to avoid catching COVID has been another hurdle for Sweeney and the team to overcome.
“I expect some people to drop out by choice, and then some by unfortunate circumstances,” she said. “At this point, I’m just doing everything I can to not be one of those unfortunate circumstances because I know I want to be there, and I know I want to do the best I can with this opportunity,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney lived in Windham and Falmouth before moving to Connecticut at age 10. She said her sister, Megan, also a Team USA Olympic luger, got her into the sport. In 2010, Emily lost the final Vancouver Olympic team berth to sister Megan in a special race-off.
“My family and I were visiting my aunt in upstate New York, and my aunt just happened to see an ad in the newspaper for our Slider Search,” Sweeney said. “We saw an ad in the newspaper, and [it] really just kind of took off from there. So my sister was really my main source of inspiration and [the] kind of person I looked up to within the sport. And she really showed me what could be done. I think at a really young age, just her level of dedication and work ethic. And then from there, it’s just been trying to figure out my own way through the sport and kind of having my own journey throughout.”
Sweeney competed in her first Olympics in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, crashing during her final run.