Taylor Morris’ career weekend continues in Lake Placid with first Viessmann World Cup medal
All 10 American Olympic nominees will carry World Cup medals into South Korea
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – When the 10 U.S. Olympic luge team nominees are officially introduced Saturday night, it will mark the first time in team history that every Olympian will carry the label of Viessmann World Cup medalist.
That benchmark was achieved Saturday afternoon in Lake Placid when Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, raced to a BMW Sprint World Cup bronze medal. It was his first career podium, and came 24 hours after his stirring fifth place performance in the singles race to claim an Olympic nomination in a raceoff-within-the-race.
“Cloud nine is probably below where I am right now,” said an elated Morris. “I feel so good about this entire weekend. My family, my friends, my wife flew out from Salt Lake City. She’s here. It’s just so fun to do that in front of a home crowd on the last track of the first half (of the season). I just feel amazing.”
Austrian World Champion Wolfgang Kindl won the single heat sprint that employs the “flying start” where the clock begins approximately 100 meters below the start handles. Only the top 15 athletes from the traditional two-heat singles event advance to the BMW Sprint Cup.
The event does not have Olympic status, but the International Luge Federation has presented it to the IOC for 2022 consideration.
Over the years, the Mount Van Hoevenberg course has been kind to Kindl, who has won a Junior World Championship and Viessmann World Cup medals down the demanding 19-turn layout. He finished in a time of 32.441 seconds. Germany’s Johannes Ludwig was the silver medal winner in 32.655, followed by Morris in 32.665.
“I don’t know if I could have done much better,” Morris continued. “Obviously, I’m a little slower on the start, but that’s where the sprint race comes in. It showed by sliding ability and I felt really comfortable today. What a weekend it’s been for me and the teammates I’m so happy to go to Pyeongchang with. I couldn’t ask for a better weekend.”
Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn., headed to his second Olympic team, was fifth in 32.745. Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., placed 15th in 33.042. Mazdzer has qualified for his third Games appearance.
Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., now two-time Olympians, were fourth in the doubles sprint race, missing a bronze medal by a mere 0.005 of a second.
The high-octane German team of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, now with four straight victories and six gold medals in seven starts this season, easily defeated the field in 37.533. Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, of Austria, were 0.25 of a second off the pace in second place, with Latvian brothers Andris and Juris Sics, three-time Olympic medalists, taking bronze in 37.838.
Mortensen and Terdiman were agonizingly close, finishing fourth in 37.843. Teammates Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., were next in 37.916.
Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah took eighth in 38.003.
Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin led the U.S. women Saturday morning in the final Viessmann World Cup luge singles race before the holiday break.
With what appeared to be her entire home town of Remsen, N.Y. in attendance, Hamlin, sitting third after one heat, finished in sixth place, just 0.12 of a second from the podium.
She closed her weekend and the Lake Placid portion of her career later in the day with a fourth-place effort in the BMW Sprint Cup.
“I slid well. I had decent runs,” said Hamlin, who also has four World Championship medals. “They were good, actually, I was happy with them. I just wasn’t happy with how fast they were.”
Hamlin is planning to retire from the sport that she entered in 1999, and is engaged to be married next summer. The veteran slider treated her home track finale as another week in the race routine.
“It was pretty easy to go through the motions that I do every other weekend of the season and what I’ve done here multiple times, so it was just another race day.”
Viessmann World Cup overall leader Natalie Geisenberger, of Germany, showed the portability of her skills in winning the two-heat singles race ahead of Canadians Alex Gough and Kim McRae, respectively.
The Adirondack weather this weekend – cold, with hard and fast ice – was conducive to track records. They started tumbling in Thursday night’s Nations Cup qualifying and totaled four new marks by the time the gala nomination party and ensuing Ice Ball started.
Geisenberger’s fourth World Cup gold medal of the season – the 42nd of her career – now gives her victories on both sides of the Atlantic. More than a few climate controlled Winter Olympic experts will cast her as the overwhelming favorite when the sleds hit the ice at the Alpensia Sliding Centre in Pyeongchang.
The 2014 Olympic champion was timed in 1 minute, 28.211 seconds. Alex Gough, fourth in Sochi, was second in 1:28.315, with Kim McRae third in 1:28.352. McRae came out of sixth place after one round and posted the best final run to claim another Viessmann World Cup medal in Lake Placid.
Hamlin clocked 1:28.475. Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa. was eighth in 1:28.683. Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., struggled early in her opening attempt and was sent out of contention. She rallied with the sixth best final heat time and took 17th in 1:29.218.
After Saturday night’s celebrations, training will resume on this same Lake Placid layout Monday through Wednesday (Dec. 18-20). The athletes will finally head home for the holidays, before returning to Europe for the resumption of the World Cup tour and the Winter Olympics.
NBC Sports Network, partnering with USA Luge, the NY Olympic Regional Development Authority, the FIL and Carr-Hughes Productions, will broadcast race action on Sunday night (Dec. 17) from 7-9 PM ET.
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org