Annual USA Luge Norton Start Championship Sept. 15
Will be streamed live at www.usaluge.org
Public rides available after the race as a fundraiser
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – When members of the USA Luge national and junior national teams gather each September for the annual Norton Start Championships in Lake Placid, it can only mean that a new racing season is fast approaching.
And this year, adding to the excitement, is the fact that the event on Sept. 15 comes with about five months to the start of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.
The start race takes place on ice at the team’s refrigerated training complex at 57 Church Street in Lake Placid. “Start” time is 7 PM in an event that will be streamed live at www.usaluge.org.
The event is open to the public free of charge, with rides down the ramps as a fundraiser to be offered after the competition. Donations to benefit the athletes and programs of USA Luge will be graciously accepted. USA Luge is a not-for-profit organization focused on recruiting, developing, training and supporting athletes to represent the United States in all international luge competitions, including the Olympic Games.
A group of recent Olympians will be in the competitive field, featuring some of the world’s fastest starters.
One of the top starters on the international scene is Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. The 2014 Olympian, Union College student and winner of two World Cup races last season and three in his young career, seeks to acquire another start title to his resume. West has accumulated five already.
Chris Mazdzer (pronounced MAZZ-durr), of Saranac Lake, N.Y., is another with a strong start, particularly his quick getaway ability in the team relay. Mazdzer, an avid outdoorsman, is a two-time Olympian, who finished third in the overall World Cup two seasons ago, just the second American man to achieve top three status.
Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah, who contended for an Olympic berth prior to Sochi, has spent most of the past two off-seasons training in Lake Placid, and will be in the start championship lineup.
Rising junior national team member Jonny Gustafson of Massena, N.Y., will test himself against his older and more seasoned teammates. Gustafson was the fastest from the start handles as a Junior World Cup racer. Last year marked his first at the World Cup level.
John Fennell (pronounced feh-NELL) came to the U.S. team via Canada after the 2015-2016 season. Fennell, of Calgary, has dual citizenship: he was born in Denver to Canadian parents. Fennell has been training with the national team in Lake Placid since the spring of 2016.
The women’s field is headlined by Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y. The 2014 Sochi Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion added more international hardware last winter, including three more World Championship medals (gold and two silver) and two World Cup victories in Park City. Hamlin, a three-time Olympian, has worked each summer to shave fractions of seconds from her start times.
On the handles, the improving Summer Britcher, a 2014 Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa., is one to watch. After her stellar 2015-2016 World Cup campaign that saw her finish fifth overall on the strength of three World Cup wins, Britcher came down with a shoulder issue in the fall of 2016 that slowed her in the 2016-2017 campaign. But that problem is ancient history as Britcher enters the Olympic season stronger and anxious to race.
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., was on the Lake Placid World Cup podium in December 2015, the historic day that saw USA Luge sweep the medals (with Hamlin and Britcher) for the first time in singles annals. Sweeney’s silver medal was her personal best at the elite level. The 2013 Junior World Champion added another World Cup silver medal last year in Park City despite nursing a wrist injury.
Right behind the potent group of Hamlin, Britcher and Sweeney lies another solid trio in the form of Rachel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., and Brittney Arndt and Ashley Farquharson, both of Park City. The latter two raced as juniors last winter.
The top doubles team of Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa., fifth in the overall World Cup standings two years ago, marched their way to a team best third place last season. Now entering just their fourth season together, the duo has made start improvement a priority each off-season. Mortensen and Terdiman teamed up immediately after the Sochi Winter Games, having raced in Russia with different partners.
Two other doubles teams will be in the field, including Jake Hyrns of Muskegon, Mich., with Anthony Espinoza of Park City, Utah, and Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y., the front driver for Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa. Krewson and Sherk anchored a USA Luge World Cup gold medal in the Lake Placid team relay in December 2015. Hyrns and Espinoza scored their first two World Cup top 10s in closing out the 2016-2017 schedule.
The start race will come just 10 days from the competitors return to the full-length track in Lillehammer, Norway.
The 2017-2018 World Cup luge tour will feature five stops in November and December. The fifth weekend will take place in Lake Placid December 15-16, at which time the 10 Olympic nominees will be officially unveiled. That celebratory event will occur at the Conference Center in Lake Placid on the night of December 16.
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org