USA 4th in relay with Britcher 5th in women’s Calgary World Cup
weeney moves a step closer to an Olympic team nomination
CALGARY, Alberta – Luge athletes live in a world of tenths, hundredths and thousandths of a second. Need proof? Look no further than the team relay competition at Canada Olympic Park.
After close to three miles of racing, a mere .065 seconds separated the United States relay team from the bronze medal won by team Austria.
The Calgary track holds the relay from the doubles start, three curves below the starting point for the men and women. The effort for Team USA kicked off with Summer Britcher, bolstered by her fifth place finish in the women’s race held earlier in the day.
“I had a few little mistakes, overdriving and a few small skids, so I definitely had more time in the run,” said Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. “But overall, I think it was OK.”
Britcher hit the lollypop pad hanging over the track in the sun-drenched outrun, opening the gate for Saranac Lake, N.Y. native Chris Mazdzer.
“I had a fantastic run,” said the 2010 and 2014 Olympian. “The outrun was a little difficult because the sun is directly behind the pad (to open the gate for the next sled), so it’s almost impossible to see it until you are directly right at it.”
Despite the challenge, Mazdzer opened the gate for the duo of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman. As they are known to do, Mortensen and Terdiman gained speed on the rest of the field as they worked their way down the 1988 Olympic course.
“I knew that we had some time to make up so I was really trying to reach with my position,” said the front driver from Huntington Station, N.Y. “We were a little late on curve 14, which caused us to be a little high on the exit”.
The height at the end of curve 14, the last corner of the course before the outrun and touch pad, provided the most dramatic moment of the race. The doubles team rode momentarily on one runner before stabilizing the sled.
“I kind of felt it was coming,” said Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. “It’s kind of inevitable on a doubles sled with the center of gravity so high, but it came down on two runners and Matt hit the pad successfully.”
The winning sled from Germany crossed the finish line in a record two minutes 21.146 seconds, the hometown favorites from Canada stopped the clock in 2:21.187. Austria took the bronze in 2:21.589.
The World Cup relay overall standings mirror today’s result, with 300 points for Germany, followed by Canada with 230 and Austria with 205.
On a sunny morning with temperatures just above the freezing mark and a mere 15% humidity, it was somewhat surprising that the track record did not fall in the women’s competition. After all, track records held for over a decade had fallen in the men’s and doubles event the previous day.
Harder, lower humidity ice proved a challenge, with a significant portion of the field having issues, particularly at the exit of curve eight and at the exit of the 270 degree turn, known as the kreisel.
Britcher faced her fair share of challenges on the first heat. After conferring with her coaches, she decided to run on equipment she had not used during training.
“I was a little nervous for the first run, not sure how it was going to go having not had any training on the equipment I was riding,” said the 2014 Olympian. “I was just trying to put the sled down the hill, see how it was going to react and I was really able to go for it more on the second run.”
And go for it she did. Britcher climbed from eighth place after the first heat to fifth. Her combined time was 1:33.970, having posted the third fastest time of the second heat.
Britcher has secured an A tier qualification standard in the USA Luge Olympic team selection process.
Emily Sweeney battled minor mistakes on both runs to place seventh with a time of 1:34.071.
“The race definitely didn’t go as I had hoped,” said Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn. “I definitely showed a lot of speed but I had a lot of mistakes and it cost me some time.”
Although not satisfied with her performance, Sweeney did move closer to securing an Olympic team nomination. By virtue of posting two top nine results, she has secured a B tier classification.
Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin was sitting in fourth place after one heat, but the exit of curve eight threw her offline. The Remsen, N.Y. native dropped back to 18th in 1:35.169. Hamlin has already secured nomination to the 2018 Olympic team.
Raychel Germaine, of Greenville, S.C., did not qualify for the World Cup.
Hamlin, Britcher and Sweeney appear to be strong favorites to become nominees to the PyeongChang team representing the United States in February, though scenarios do exist whereby Germaine could punch a ticket to South Korea. Should Germaine earn a top five finish, with Sweeney out of the top five, Germaine will become a nominee.
Germany’s Tatjana Huefner upset teammate Natalie Geisenberger’s perfect season, taking gold in 1:33.442. Canadian Alex Gough was second in 1:33.557, with a 1:33.603 for bronze medalist Geisenberger.
Germans remain strong in the overall points race. Geisenberger leads with 440 points, in front of Huefner with 400. Gough sits in third with 283 points after the fourth of nine events.
Britcher and Sweeney hold fifth and sixth places, with 257 and 250 points respectively. Hamlin is 10th with 168.
A race within a race was held to determine the America-Pacific-Championships. Gough took gold, with teammate Kim McRae second and Britcher third.
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.
Media interested in attending the Lake Placid World Cup competitions and ensuing announcement must complete the following credential form:
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