Americans use “flying start” to claim gold and bronze in Lillehammer sprint races
Britcher wins again, Mortensen/Terdiman take bronze medal
Geisenberger wins 6th straight overall World Cup title
LILLEHAMMER, Norway – USA Luge racer Summer Britcher completed a World Cup sweep in Sunday’s single heat sprint event in Lillehammer, and secured the fifth individual race victory of her blossoming career. The result, against a cold and snowy backdrop, also propelled the 23-year-old to third place in the overall standings.
The two-time Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa. won the sprint race after grabbing the gold medal 24 hours earlier in the traditional two run competition.
“I felt pretty good about the run,” remarked Britcher. “I felt like my start could have been stronger. The 20 second start clock instead of the 30 second start clock caught me a little bit off guard, and I didn’t feel fully prepared to give as powerful a start as I know that I can. But luckily, it’s a sprint race and the start’s not super crucial. But overall, I thought the run was pretty good. Some spots were a little bit better than yesterday, some spots were a little bit worse, but I’m talking minor details. I’m pretty happy and was just shooting for consistency from yesterday to today.”
Just after the women cleared the 1994 Olympic track, Britcher’s teammates Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., raced to the bronze medal in sprint doubles and sent themselves to the head of the class in this discipline.
After hovering just outside the top three this year, they achieved their first podium result (excluding a team relay silver medal) since a silver medal at the 2017 World Cup finals that clinched third place in the overall World Cup last year. They are currently ranked fifth in the season-long standings.
“Jayson and I were lucky to be up there today,” said Mortensen, the front driver. “We had 90 percent of a good run, but we had a really major skid in the final curve, in 16. We actually felt the sled slow down, so we could have definitely had some more speed behind us on our finish time.”
“I thought we blew a really big opportunity which I’m glad was not the case,” added Terdiman, the back driver. “We’re very good at building speed down the track. I’m just really thankful the mistake we did make, though it was a major mistake, it did cost us some time, but not enough to take us away from that opportunity that we did have.”
They sit atop the sprint doubles standings, which are determined by the total time of all four races rather than the traditional totaling of World Cup points.
“We haven’t really talked about (winning the sprint discipline). It’s not something that we’ve gone after. This year is all about what happens in February. It’s not about what goes on in these races, but we’re very fortunate to be in the position that we’re in.”
The sprint format uses the “flying start” approach, where racers begin at their normal height on the track. They pull from the handles, but the timing doesn’t commence for approximately 100 meters, hence, the flying start. The International Luge Federation (FIL) has proposed this event to the IOC for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Britcher was timed in 29.925 seconds, just 0.002 ahead of Russian Victoria Demchenko. Double Olympic medalist Natalie Geisenberger, of Germany, picked up the bronze in 29.948 after placing second Saturday behind Britcher. Geisenberger accumulated enough points to secure the World Cup crystal for the sixth consecutive year, although two events remain next weekend in Latvia.
The American now has a chance to finish as high as second in the standings, something that only happened in 1991-1992 when four-time Olympian and 1994 U.S. flagbearer Cameron Myler took the World Cup runner-up spot.
“I did have a chance to look over the points,” continued Britcher. “Up until very recently, it wasn’t something that was really on my radar after I didn’t qualify for the first race of the season and got that big ‘ol zero. I wasn’t expecting to have a shot at the overall, so this is something new on my radar. But I think not focusing on that, not focusing on the World Cup circuit as a whole, and just focusing on individual races has really been helping me. I want to get that third or possibly second spot overall, but I’m just going to focus on Sigulda as an individual race, and a final opportunity to fine tune my mental approach going into the Olympics.”
Germany’s triple Olympic medal winner Tatjana Huefner, was 11th in the sprint and is second overall, 33 points ahead of Britcher.
Sochi Olympic bronze medal winner Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., a four-time Olympian and winner of four World Championship medals, was sixth in the sprint race, 0.10 from Britcher. Hamlin sits in sixth place on the World Cup campaign.
First time Olympian Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., took 12th in 30.220. She is ninth in the standings.
Mortensen and Terdiman, among the early starters in the doubles sprint, posted a fast time and immediately went to the leaders’ box at the conclusion of their run for the agonizing wait. They were subsequently passed by eventual race winners Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria, and silver medalists Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, of Germany, the 2014 Olympic gold medal winners.
There was just one remaining sled, and that belonged to the best team of the past two years.
“We were thinking fourth place doesn’t sound so bad,” quipped Mortensen.
The three teams then watched incredulously as Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, 2017 World Champions and the dominant team of the past two years, with eight victories this season, bobbled coming out of curve 13 and subsequently rolled their sled moments later, crashing out of the race. Merely finishing would have clinched the overall World Cup doubles crown.
“It’s never good, or a great feeling to see another competitor mess up, but we’ll take it,” continued Mortensen. “Getting a third place, even at the fault of someone else, that’s racing. So that’s something we have to deal with every time. It’s not very often that you see one of these German teams screw up to the extent that they did down the track, but for us, it helped us out, so we’ll take it when we can get it. As our coach said, ‘sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.’”
The three medal winning teams were separated by 0.14 of a second.
Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa. were seventh in the sprint, and occupy 14th place overall on the year.
Earlier, the USA Luge men’s team was led in singles by Tucker West in 11th place. Taylor Morris was 12th and Chris Mazdzer 21st.
Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller, who won here on the Hunderfossen track five years ago and captured the Pyeongchang pre-Olympic World Cup last February, defeated Russian Roman Repilov by nearly 0.1 of a second over two heats.
The young Italian added a bronze medal later in the sprint event that was captured by Russia’s Semen Pavlichenko, the 2015 World Champion. Pavlichenko, the tour’s ultimate risk-taker, is in third place on the year.
Fischnaller clocked a pair of runs totaling 1:38.590. Repilov, the defending World Cup overall champion and two-time Junior World Champion, staged a massive comeback in the second heat, battling from ninth place to the silver medal. Wolfgang Kindl, Austria’s 2017 World Champion, took the bronze medal in 1:38.722.
Double Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany, second at the intermission, gave back ample time from the exit of curve 13 to the finish, and wound up fifth, but still has the overall World Cup lead. However, Loch’s advantage is down to 45 points over Kindl as the final pair of races beckon. Kindl helped his own cause with a runner-up finish in the sprint race behind Pavlichenko.
West, a two-time Olympian from Ridgefield, Conn., had the two fastest start times and a pair of runs totaling 1:39.058. His second leg was seventh best in the field, which enabled him to achieve the needed top 15 result for the sprint race where he placed 15th.
Morris, from South Jordan, Utah, a first time Olympian, was timed in 1:39.078, while Mazdzer, from Saranac Lake, N.Y., heading to his third Games, recorded 1:39.437. In the sprint, Morris was seventh, 0.286 from Pavlichenko.
In the overall World Cup rankings, West is 10th, Morris 16th and Mazdzer 18th.
The World Cup tour now moves to the Baltic region for next weekend’s action-packed finals in Sigulda, Latvia. The program includes the three discipline races as well as the team relay and sprint events to conclude the season prior to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
Follow the action live on www.olympicchannel.com. In addition, NBC Sports Network will offer two-hour coverage on Jan. 28 at 10 PM ET.
For complete results, standings and interviews from today’s races, please log on to:
Notes to media:
USA Luge will have 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 our final media call on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 1 PM ET.
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org