USA Luge 5th and 10th in watery Winterberg, as Mortensen/Terdiman secure an Olympic A-tier qualification
WINTERBERG, Germany – Once again, the World Cup luge tour waited for winter to appear in this berg. Not Saturday, as witnessed once again, by warm wet weather that transitioned during the morning from rain to snow in the men’s singles race.
The afternoon doubles event started in steady snowfall, but that did not deter Americans Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman from battling to a fifth place result. The performance secured the team an A-tier qualification for nomination to the Pyeongchang Olympic team. That result can only be surpassed if other USA Luge doubles sleds place higher.
Seventh after the first run, Mortensen and Terdiman overtook Latvia’s brothers Andris and Juris Sics and Canadians Tristan Walker and Justin Snith.
“After last week, bouncing back after a crash, and then being able to nail an A tier right away, is a huuuuge load off our shoulders,” stated Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y.
“I’m really focused on individual races and making sure that we can go as fast as we can possibly go for each race. Inherently, that comes with a bit more risk, but we need to know what our boundaries are before we get to Korea.”
“We were trying to adapt to the atmosphere we were dealing with each day (in Winterberg),” added Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. “We talked about how we wanted to set up the sled. We didn’t know if it would be six degrees Celsius and raining, or two degrees and snowing. But two days ago, we decided that, more than likely, it would be the normal Winterberg, and there’s going to be snow coming down. So we committed to the (sled) setup we tried the second day of training, and it actually worked really well for us today.”
Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah, took 13th in 1:28.428, and in the process, secured a C-tier Olympic qualification. However, C-tiers must be accompanied by higher levels of achievement for Olympic nomination.
Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y., and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., were 16th, almost 1.3 off the pace. They picked up a C-tier last week in Igls.
Germany swept the podium, mimicking the pre-Olympic results from last February in Pyeongchang. Current World Champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken led the team’s 54th win in the last 56 World Cup races. They had the two best runs, combining for a time of 1 minute, 27.340 seconds.
Back-to-back wins to begin the campaign has them atop the World Cup rankings with 200 overall points.
Defending Olympic gold medalists Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, in second place, totaled 1:27.577, followed by youngsters Robin Geuke and David Gamm, third, in 1:27.769. Mortensen and Terdiman clocked 1:27.866.
Wendl and Arlt are second on the season with 155. Italians Ludwig Rieder and Patrick Rastner, fourth Saturday, are third overall with 145. Mortensen and Terdiman are in 10th place with 73 World Cup points. Hyrns and Espinoza are 16th; Krewson and Sherk stand 17th.
Sochi Olympian Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn., was the best of the American threesome in 10th place in the singles race, improving from 17th after one leg. West finished 0.3 of a second from the lead. In the opening two weeks, he has secured B and C tier Olympic qualifications.
“I have mixed feelings on my result today,” said West. “I’m thrilled with a top 10 finish, but I know that I left a good amount of time in both runs due to driving mistakes at the bottom of the track. I’m happy to see that the possibility for speed is there, but I really need to focus on getting two clean and consistent runs down the track on race day. Hopefully the tides will turn in the coming races.”
Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., was 21st in 1:46.120. He had a podium result here two seasons ago in warm, rainy weather. The two-time Olympian will miss out on Sunday’s sprint races, a World Cup points grab reserved for each race’s top 15. In the first two events, Mazdzer has registered a pair of C tiers toward Olympic nomination.
Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, bidding for his first Olympic team, was 23rd in 1:46.328 and will also sit out Sunday’s action.
Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., and John Fennell, a dual citizen from Calgary, did not qualify in the Friday Nations Cup race.
For the second straight week, weather conditions led to a unique-looking men’s leaderboard. Snowfall impacted the competition in Igls, Austria last weekend.
“The conditions today were pretty typical for Winterberg,” continued West. “We had a misty rain for the first few sleds of the first run, which then turned into a snow that continued until the end of the race. The track seemed to slow down quite a bit on the first run, but then held fairly steady for the second run. It’s always tough to be battling weather like this, but there’s really not much you can do about it other than focusing on having two good runs. Hopefully, we will see some better weather for the next few races.”
To West’s point, Winterberg produced a first-time winner in Italian Kevin Fischnaller. His individual runs were ranked first and 14th, totaling 1:45.528.
The cousin of World Cup winner Dominik Fischnaller used a significant first heat advantage to hold off the hard-charging Felix Loch of Germany, the fastest racer of the second run.
Loch, the 2010 and 2014 Olympic champion, occupied the leader’s box for many sliders, before Fischnaller, the final sled of the competition, overtook him. Loch settled for the silver medal in 1:45.595.
Russia picked up the bronze, although it was not last season’s World Cup overall winner, Roman Repilov. Instead, Stepan Federov took third place in1:45.645. Repilov, yet to get untracked in the Olympic season, was 19th, victimized by the ice conditions.
The top 26 men were less than a second of each other.
Loch and Semen Pavlichenko, Russia’s 2015 World Champion, are tied for the overall World Cup lead with 155 points. Pavlichenko took fifth in the race. Fischnaller improved to third place with 142 points.
West is 14th with 61 points; Mazdzer 20th with 41; Morris is tied for 26th on 29 points; Gustafson has 20 World Cup points for 32nd position; and Fennell has three points and sits in 41st place.
The Winterberg race program concludes Sunday with women’s singles at 5:30 AM ET, followed by the sprint races. Live streaming will be available at www.olympicchannel.com.
The Winterberg World Cup marks the second of five consecutive weekends of racing. The finale of that stretch will occur in Lake Placid on Dec. 15-16. USA Luge will announce its 10 Olympic nominees on the evening of Dec. 16 at 6 PM in the Conference Center in Lake Placid.
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