USA Luge, with Britcher, West, Mortensen/Terdiman, ends Koenigssee World Cup with silver medal in team relay
KOENIGSSEE, Germany – On the 12th Day of Christmas in Koenigssee, Santa dropped off some presents to Italy, Austria and the United States, but then he made way for the Grinch to handle the home team Germans.
The holiday officially ended Sunday in this quintessential Bavarian resort in Southern Germany, and USA Luge departed the oldest artificially refrigerated track in the world with a silver medal in the team relay. For the Americans, it was their first World Cup medal of the season in this event, and the first since scoring a World Championship silver last winter in Igls, Austria.
In a day of surprises, Italy, starting early in the relay, took the gold medal by 0.2 of a second over the U.S., with Austria third. Germany, the World Cup leader, was disqualified when the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt barged (started their run before the gate opened) coming off the handles.
This occurred about an hour after men’s first heat singles leader, World Cup leader, and double Olympic champion Felix Loch, on his home ice, skidded in the Bend Straightaway in his final run. He surrendered a sizeable lead at the time and finished 11th.
This enabled 2017 World Champion Wolfgang Kindl to lead a gold-silver effort for Austria, with Armin Frauscher right behind him. In all, five Austrians raced into the top 10 on what has become their second home course. Germany’s Johannes Ludwig grabbed the final rung of the podium.
The German developments were in stark contrast to their six-medal sweep of Saturday’s doubles and women’s singles events.
Sochi and Pyeongchang Olympian Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., fifth in singles on Saturday, paved the U.S. path in the team relay with the fastest women’s heat of the race.
“That run was pretty good,” she stated. “I knew I put together two clean runs yesterday. I was trying to have fun. The team relay is a really fun event. It was good going into it with the confidence and consistency and just knowing you want to do the same thing.
“I’m a big fan of the team relay. It’s definitely a lot of fun. It’s so unique because in some ways it’s a lot more stressful than an individual race, but in a lot of ways, it’s less stressful, so it’s a very interesting race. It’s a ton of fun.”
After hitting the touch pad beyond the usual finish line, Britcher turned the event over to teammate Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn., who placed sixth earlier in men’s singles. West had the two fastest start times of that event, and his reaction time in the relay also lead the men’s field. Having no access to view Britcher’s heat or standing, West concluded his run by putting the U.S. in medal position. The two-time Olympian said he benefitted from several training runs last weekend from the lower start position employed in the team relay.
“You definitely are thinking about how your other teammates’ runs are, but when you’re sitting down in that gate and you’re ready to explode out, it almost becomes an individual sport. You’re focusing on having your own clean run, your own clean leg, which will hopefully add to the team as a whole.”
The doubles sled of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman brought it home despite a near swing-and-a-miss of the touch pad by Mortensen.
“I think the run felt great,” commented Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. “When we pulled out of the gate, I didn’t feel like our reaction was awesome, but we did a really good job of staying stable on our paddles. We had a much better start ramp today than we did yesterday, and going down, I felt really good. I felt like we really nailed our lines. I did sit up pretty early for the pad. We’ll call that a little mental error on my behalf there. But we hit the pad and got a good finish time and it was enough for a silver medal today.”
“I’ve always been a fan of the relay. It’s the greatest event. It’s a lot of fun for all of us,” added Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. “It’s always anything can happen on any day in any race, and we saw the hometown boys make a huge mistake at the start. I don’t know if we learned anything today, but I definitely feel we slid well as a group, and when we do that anything can happen.”
The clock stopped 0.2 behind the Italians, who were delivered to the top of the podium by Andrea Voetter, Dominik Fischnaller and the new, young doubles team of Fabian Malleier and Ivan Nagler.
Their winning time was 2 minutes, 43.233 seconds, while the American quartet clocked 2:43.434. Austria was next in 2:43.595.
After three straight relay victories by Germany, Sunday’s disqualification has bunched the top four nations with two races remaining. The Germans still lead with 300 World Cup points. Canada is second with 285, Austria ranks third with 275, followed by USA Luge with 251.
On another warm Bavarian afternoon, Kindl, now a World Cup gold medalist for the fourth time in singles after his Sunday triumph, posted a combined 1:39.035. It’s his second straight victory after the Lake Placid sprint race.
Teammate Armin Frauscher, a Friday Nations Cup qualifier, was the silver medalist in 1:39.064, making a strong pitch to join Kindl in next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Games. The 2017 U23 World Champion how has a pair of World Cup silver medals.
After taking all six medals in Saturday’s doubles and women’s races, Germany needed Johannes Ludwig to salvage the men’s event for the home team, taking the bronze medal in 1:39.154 on a track, he said later, is not among his favorites.
West finished 0.232 from Kindl as he seeks to translate the World Cup’s fastest starts into a corresponding finish time.
“I was really happy with today’s race,” said West. “I put down two clean and consistent runs. I was very happy with the lines I drove. My starts have continued to improve over the races that we’ve had, and hopefully, I’m just on an upward trajectory.
“I don’t think all things are figured out yet. There’s definitely some speed we need to find at the bottom. But we definitely highlighted that today, so hopefully, moving forward, the countdown to the Olympics, we’ll just get faster and faster.”
Two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., tied for 16th in 1:39.573, while Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, was 29th in 1:40.534.
In the overall World Cup standings, Loch with 571 points, is 42 points in front of Kindl, who has finally overcome some health issues that hampered him in November. West is 10th in the standings, Morris is 16th and Mazdzer 18th. Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., is 35th and remains in Lake Placid training during January as is John Fennell, a dual citizen from Calgary. Fennell is ranked 40th.
The Olympic Channel (TV) will offer men’s singles coverage at 12:30 PM ET this afternoon. NBC Sports Network will present women’s singles later today at 2 PM ET with Tim Singer calling the action and West providing the color commentary.
Only three World Cup stops remain before some 130 athletes will journey to South Korea for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The final three races will determine Olympic seeding, and are set for Oberhof, Germany Jan. 13-14; Lillehammer, NorwayJan. 20-21; and the finals in Sigulda, Latvia Jan. 27-28.
Thereafter, it’s on to South Korea.
For complete results and interviews, please log on to:
Notes to media going to Pyeongchang:
USA Luge will have tentative press conferences on Feb. 5 (singles) and Feb. 8 (doubles). These will occur in the Mountain Press Center. Times TBD.
In addition, you will have access to our team in the mix zone after each training session at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, not between runs.
Also, you are invited to participate in media calls this month on Jan. 9 and 16 at 2 PM ET, and Jan. 23 at 1 PM ET.
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org