USA a Close Fourth in Oberhof Relay
Just 0.007 of a second separates USA Luge from the team relay podium in Oberhof, In 4 races this weekend, Germans set 3 track records
OBERHOF, Germany – Last spring when the World Cup schedule was released, Germany got what it wanted – one of the final three races of the season in Oberhof. The last three events determine seeding for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Germany’s domination here even exceeds what it does elsewhere.
Including Sunday’s men’s singles and team relay events, the home team won eight of the 12 medals issued, and ended the weekend setting track records in three of the four events. Austria picked up two medals (doubles, team relay), while Latvia (team relay) and Russia (men’s singles) rounded out the podiums.
In the team relay, USA Luge, with Erin Hamlin, Tucker West, and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, finished in fourth place, a scant 0.007 of a second from the bronze and 0.06 from the silver medal. The U.S. took the team relay silver medal last week in Koenigssee, as well as at the 2017 World Championships.
Earlier Sunday, West was the top American singles racer in 15th place.
Germany established a team relay record, courtesy of all their weekend gold medalists. Dajana Eitberger, Felix Loch and the doubles team of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken combined for the team’s fourth victory in five starts. They totaled 2 minutes, 20.952 seconds. The lone race they have not won this season was last week’s doubles disqualification for barging the start gate.
Germany has a World Cup-leading 400 overall points, but with just one event remaining two weeks from now in Sigulda, Latvia, the rest of the top five is anything but decided.
Austria is second with 345 points; Canada has 331; the United States 311; Latvia 300.
The latter nation landed on the podium for the first time this year, 0.7 of a second behind Germany. Austria’s squad is coming on in recent weeks, and took the bronze medal in 2:21.709. Their lead leg was raced by 2018 Olympian Hannah Prock, daughter of legendary singles athlete, Olympic medal winner and Austrian program director Markus Prock.
USA Luge had a final time of 2:21.716 in the event that incorporates a touch pad some 100 meters beyond the traditional finish line. Touching the pad releases the start gate at the top for the next teammate. Timing stops when the doubles team hits the pad.
For Loch, the relay marked the completion of a double gold medal day, while his teammates had gold medal weekends. With his eighth career triumph on this course, Loch increased his overall World Cup advantage with his fourth victory of the season in nine men’s singles starts.
The 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medalist, who has gone back to his old sled this season after experimenting last year, set a track record in the opening heat as he ran away from the field in winning by 0.267 seconds. His domination was so thorough that he lead every split time in both attempts.
Loch used his past success in Oberhof and all the ice time he has accrued here to overcome a final training run Friday that was skipped by most of the German team. Ice conditions were abhorrent for the men’s seeded training, leading to times that were some three seconds slower than earlier in the week. That might have affected the rest of the field but not the home team, which traditionally bludgeons the field on this course in the Thuringian Forrest.
Loch led a gold-bronze finish, as teammate Andi Langehan took third in what he said later could be the final event on his home track. The veteran settled into the bronze medal position behind Russian Semen Pavlichenko, who improved two spots in the second heat.
Loch, who also posted the quickest final run on Oberhof’s short luge track, totaled 1:25.591. Pavlichenko, the 2015 World Champion, employs a go-for-broke style that works well some weeks but not every week. He was next in 1:25.858. Langenhan’s bronze medal time was 1:25.886.
The race never materialized for USA Luge on a course where they have not accumulated so many training runs over the years. West, of Ridgefield, Conn., led his Olympic teammates in 15th place with a time of 1:26.320. Three-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., was 17th in 1:26.408, while Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, heading to his first Winter Games, finished 20th in 1:26.599.
Loch’s World Cup leading point total of 671 puts him over 100 points clear of Austrian Wolfgang Kindl, who was ninth today. The 2017 World Champion was ninth in Sunday’s competition. Pavlichenko is third at 521.
West, preparing for his second Olympic appearance, leads the U.S. He’s ninth with 327 overall World Cup points. Morris is 16th at 218, with Mazdzer 17th with 208. Jonny Gustafson of Massena, N.Y., training this month in Lake Placid, is 35th with 55 points and John Fennell, a dual citizen from Calgary, is 42nd with 32 points.
With just two stops remaining on this year’s World Cup tour, next weekend’s races move to the 1994 Olympic track in Lillehammer on January 20-21, followed by the finals in Sigulda January 27-28.
Thereafter, the six USA Luge Olympians entered in the Pyeongchang singles races, will start working their way to the Alpensia Sliding Centre after team processing. Meanwhile, the two doubles teams will train for several days on the 1998 Olympic course in Nagano just before it ceases operation.
The doubles teams will arrive in Pyeongchang in time to join their teammates at the Opening Ceremony on February 9.
For complete results from today’s races, please log on to:
Notes to media:
USA Luge will have tentative press conferences in South Korea on Feb. 5 (singles) at 6 PM and Feb. 8 (doubles) at 4:30 PM. These will occur in the Mountain Press Center. All times local.
In addition, you will have access to our team in the mix zone after each training session and after each racing session at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, not between runs.
Finally, you are invited to participate in media calls on Jan. 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