Whitman to coach U.S. Luge Naturbahn Team

IN UNIFORM–Keith Whitman shows his colors while sister, Fran, coaxes a smile from outside the camera range. Whitman will travel to Europe this Christmas to coach the U.S. Luge Naturbahn Team.

by Nancy Besonen
Keith Whitman will be flying high this Christmas, en route to Europe to coach the U.S. Luge Naturbahn Team as it trains and competes in Italy, Austria and St. Sebastian. And he gives the credit to a L’Anse High School coach. Whitman of Escanaba grew up in L’Anse, where his family owned and operated the Whirl-I-Gig bowling alley and dance hall. One of eight siblings, most all of them ranging to tall and lanky, he struggled with both coordination and others’ poor judgement. “A phys ed teacher told me I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time,” Whitman said. “Teachers don’t understand the impact and influence they have on a young man or woman. Then Jim Mattson, the track coach, took me under his wing.” And Whitman, who had once driven his knee into his front teeth and required stitches from a assigned somersault, soared. “He told me, ‘I believe in you, I think you’re worth something, and I care about you,’” Whitman said. “He worked with me from my freshman through senior year. As a senior in 1969, I held the state record in the mile run.” Whitman was on the run again in the early 1980’s, this time exercising in the woods near Negaunee, when he met a man working on a luge run. The man invited him to come back and try out the track. Whitman returned, and a passion was born. To read more, subscribe to the L’Anse Sentinel online, or buy a print copy at our local retailers.