Williamsburg man paints Team USA Luge helmets for 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games

Posted at 8:55 PM, Dec 07, 2017

NEWPORT NEWS, Va - In two months, the world's eye will be on the best athletes competing for glory in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The hard work of a man from Hampton Roads will be in action, but not in the way one might think.

Gone in a second. Going up to 90 miles an hour. Luge is the fastest sport on ice.

"A majority of the time they're laying on their back so you're only going to see either the front or maybe a little bit of the side," said Jon Wooten.

You won't see Wooten, an artist from Williamsburg, sliding down a track in the upcoming Olympic Games, but you will see his hard work and talent in the form of a helmet.

"When we get to watch it on TV, it's really one of those overwhelming feelings," said Wooten.

Back in the early 2000's, Team USA Luge helmets were what Wooten called "blank."

"We thought it would be neat to come up with an idea to represent USA with a big bold graphic," said Wooten.

Wooten reached out to USA Luge about changing that. His work has been seen in the Torino 2006 Games, Vancouver 2010 Games and Sochi 2014 Games. The PyeongChang 2018 Games will be his fourth. He works alongside with Chase McClelland to bring a color sketch to life on a Kevlar helmet in the most patriotic way possible.

"Typically we try to keep the colors big bold and flashy because they are going 90 miles per hour so you want to be able to see the helmet," said Wooten.

Each helmet can take between six to eight hours to make. There are roughly 15 to 20 steps per helmet as far as masking and painting and repeating those processes. Wooten and McClelland are making 15 for PyeongChang 2018.

Helmets are the only safety component athletes wear, said Gordy Sheer, who does marketing and brand endorsements for USA Luge. "It's gotta be done right. It's gotta look good and it has to be strong."

Erin Hamlin has competed in all three of Wooten's helmets and is excited for her fourth.

"I really love having a crazy design on my helmet. We have something you can see us on the start handles going down the track in any photos and [know] that's an American," said Hamlin.

Wooten's work clearly speaks for itself. "He's an amazing artist. He's got an eye that's unbelievable and knows how to make our team look really cool and fast," said Sheer.