Mortensen / Terdiman 7th in Calgary doubles to lead US effort
Last call: race offs for US Olympic spots loom on home ice in Lake Placid
CALGARY, Alberta – The World Cup tour came to North America this week, with the USA Luge doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman opening the race weekend Friday in Calgary with a seventh place performance.
It was an afternoon into an evening that saw the 15-year old track record of American double Olympic medalists Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin fall in the opening heat. German winners Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken had a first run time of 43.421 seconds, a new mark to go with their 2011 start record.
The second half of the Calgary doubleheader produced a men’s track record from another German, Felix Loch, getting ready to defend his 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medals. Loch, the World Cup leader who has returned to an older sled, posted a record 44.274 opening leg on his way to his third straight win of the year. Loch leads the overall World Cup season race by 176 points.
The records occurred on a comfortable night for spectating, with many U.S. team families in the stands to support their sliders. From Calgary, they will follow the team to Lake Placid for the World Cup and announcement of the 10 Olympic nominees.
Mortensen and Terdiman had two runs totaling one minute, 27.396 seconds. The duo picked up their top five A tier Olympic qualification last month, and have stated that their singular goal is to maximize speed, looking to reach its zenith at the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.
“The race was pretty good. Jayson and I had two solid runs,” said Mortensen, the front driver from Huntington Station, N.Y. “In the first run we went late into the start curve, which unfortunately at this track, cost us a lot of time.”
“We did have really great runs,” chimed in back driver, Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. “That one small mistake definitely cost us a top five, maybe even more. We bounced back in the second run. It was a stellar run, the best one we’ve had all week. It’ll be a confidence builder for the team relay tomorrow.”
Eggert and Benecken clocked a total of 1:26.875 to win their fourth straight World Cup doubles race of the season. Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, on a medal-winning streak of late, were second to break up a German sweep.
Penz and Fischler were timed in 1:27.018. They are working their way back from the 2016-2017 season, which sidelined them after Fischler came down with circulatory problems for part of the year.
Defending Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt picked up a bronze medal in 1:27.111, and lost ground to their compatriots in the overall World Cup chase. Eggert and Benecken hold a 100-point advantage over Wendl and Arlt.
Mortensen and Terdiman are in seventh place in the rankings.
Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa. were 11th in 1:27.840. Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich., bothered by intestinal problems all week that left him weak and sleepless, teamed with Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah for a 16th place result.
Just one World Cup doubles event is left this month, taking place next Friday (Dec. 15) in Lake Placid, N.Y. Mortensen and Terdiman are tentatively secure with an A tier result, earned in Winterberg, Germany via their fifth place finish. A showdown for the second and final Olympic spot between the Hyrns/Espinoza and Krewson/Sherk sleds appears likely unless both can earn A tier results in front of Mortensen and Terdiman.
However, another qualification scenario for Krewson and Sherk gives the duo a slight advantage over Hyrns/Espinoza, which will avoid a race-off. Should Krewson and Sherk finish in the top ten, that will earn them a C tier nomination to the Olympic squad. C tier nominations consist of two top 13 finishes and one top ten finish in doubles.
In the overall World Cup standings, Hyrns and Espinoza are 14th, while Krewson and Sherk are in 18th place.
Loch had the winning men’s time of 1:28.752. He was one of the few racers to blast his way through a bump that developed at the exit of the Kriesel that sent others a few inches off the ice.
Sam Edney, on his home track, had to qualify via the Nations Cup 24 hours earlier and took advantage of the opportunity. He rallied from fourth to second place on the night in 1:29.138.
Last season’s overall World Cup winner, Russian Roman Repilov, was third in 1:29.205, despite a significant error as he got his second leg underway. Repilov, a two-time Junior World Champion, is part of the team that won’t be a team less than two months from now in Pyeongchang.
Although the IOC banned the Russian Olympic Team this week as a result of the 2014 Sochi drug scandal, its luge racers have never been found guilty of cheating. Hence, they may compete as neutral athletes under the flag of the IOC. Should they medal at the Games, however, there will be no national anthem and the medal won’t count for Russia. However, a Russian sled placed in the top three will allow the athlete/s to receive a medal. Despite the controversy, they are forging ahead and Repilov is evidence of that.
Vancouver and Sochi Olympian Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. and 2014 Olympian Tucker West, of Ridgefield Conn., led the USA Luge contingent, finishing 14th and 16th, respectively.
Mazdzer and West achieved a C tier qualification tonight, tentatively booking tickets to PyeongChang in February.
“It’s been a really rough first part of the year,” stated Mazdzer, who won a World Cup silver medal here two years ago. “I’m extremely frustrated with how everything’s going. So to take the stress off by making a tier is huge.”
Team USA’s start times continue to impress, with Mazdzer posting the third and best start times in the two respective heats.
Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, was sitting in 10th place at the halfway mark and looking at half of a B tier qualification for a 6-10 placing. But late in the second run, Morris, who may have been affected by the bump exiting the Kriesel, went in the other direction and wound up 20th.
John Fennell, of Calgary, a dual citizen now competing for USA Luge, took 23rd. Fennell had a quick getaway and start turn execution in both runs. His starts ranked second and fifth. Unfortunately, he didn’t sustain that momentum.
Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., did not qualify in Thursday’s Nations Cup race.
Here’s where the drama lies: to complete the three-man Olympic team with just one selection race remaining, it appears a race-off next week is likely for the men. Morris, Fennell and Gustafson, barring an A tier finish, will face each other for the final Olympic team nomination. Per USA Luge Olympic team selection procedure, coaches will determine that process shortly.
The America-Pacific Championships are being held concurrently this weekend. It provided USA Luge with three medals, as Mazdzer scored a bronze, Mortensen and Terdiman collected silver, with Krewson and Sherk, also taking a bronze medal.
The World Cup circuit is in the fourth 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 ET in the Conference Center in Lake Placid.
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