With the official opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics only a couple weeks away, a timely exhibit of Olympic-related photos by a US luge coach has opened at the Lake Placid Public Library.
The photos are not the images of competitors, sled and ice that everyone might expect. Instead, Fred Zimny’s interests have led him to look beyond winter games venues and out into the surrounding host cities and countries. The result is an interesting mix of landscapes, people and, occasionally, animals from Europe to Asia where past games have been held.
“My dad always took a lot of family photos, and I started getting into it when I was 13,” says Fred as an explanation of how he came by his avocation. His late father was also instrumental in his coming to Lake Placid and becoming a luger. Fred was a high school student in Boonton, NJ when first saw it broadcast on TV as part of the 1976 winter games and knew it was something he wanted to try. He credits his father for being open to the idea and helping him. “He was the greatest. He was so supportive.”
They were returning to New Jersey from the Montreal Olympics that summer when they decided to take a side trip to find out more about luging. Before he knew it, Fred was in a two-week training program. Just three weeks later, the 16-year-old found himself on a plane headed for Innsbruck and his first international competition. “I couldn’t believe it. If you can imagine, for a kid that age, it was really heady stuff.” Fortunately, school officials in Boonton went along with the idea and made allowances for his training and race schedule.
His, back-and-forth, school to sport existence continued through his studies at Arizona State University as well, and may have taken its toll on his competitive edge when he missed making the 1980 Olympic team by a tenth of a second. “Fourth is the worst,” he said of his placement in the trials. “It takes years to get over that.”
Fred switched from competitor to organizer in 1988, becoming national team manager for 13 years and then Junior National Team Head Coach. All through his international luge world travels, Fred’s interest in photography grew along with his desire to see more of host countries.
His wanderings have resulted in images as diverse as sunlight filtering through the dome at the Vatican and snow monkeys warming themselves in hot springs of northern Japan. Luge images are not completely shut out and there is an athlete’s eye-view of entering opening ceremonies. Many of his works show an affinity for the symmetry of nature and an affection for local people and for animals.
The show will be up until the end of March with a reception, to which all are invited, scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 22. The gallery is always free and open regular library hours.