Britcher 6th in final World Cup sprint race to finish a career best third place overall
Mazdzer season best 6th in last singles race before Pyeongchang
SIGULDA, Latvia – Thanks to a consistent streak of races in January, highlighted by back-to-back World Cup wins in Lillehammer, two-time Olympian Summer Britcher took sixth place in Sunday’s sprint race in Sigulda, and finished a career best third in the overall tour standings as the season came to an end.
Only one event remains: the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang starting in less than two weeks.
Britcher, a 23-year-old from Glen Rock, Pa., was also aided by consecutive podium results in Winterberg, Germany in November. She accounted for four of USA Luge’s nine medals in the 2017-2018 World Cup season. Her Lillehammer victories gave her a career total of five, the most in USA Luge singles history (men and women).
“It’s incredible. I had a taste of it a couple of years ago,” remarked Britcher of the 2015-2016 season that saw her win three times in the first half. “At the beginning of this season, when I didn’t qualify (in Igls, Austria), I thought I had no shot.”
As pleased as she was to reach the top three this season, the focus has always been on South Korea. “I’ve looked each week at how I can use the race to help me for the Olympics.”
Britcher added to her achievements by finishing second for the season in the final sprint results behind Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger. The doubles team of Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., also two-time Olympians, placed second in the final sprint results, as well, after taking eighth place Sunday.
Scored differently than the two-heat disciplines and the team relay, the overall sprint cup results are reached by tallying the athletes’ times in the four races this season. The International Luge Federation has officially proposed adding this discipline to the 2022 Olympic program.
On Saturday, Mortensen and Terdiman secured their place among the top seeded doubles teams and will open the Olympic event February 14 with a more desired start position.
Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa. did not race this weekend as a result of a mid-week spill that sidelined Krewson. They will return to the ice next week at a pre-Olympic camp in Nagano, Japan, and will take their first Olympic race run from outside the top-seed.
Britcher and Erin Hamlin started their sprints on a path to the podium. Britcher posted the best top split time, but her final time did not match it, while Hamlin, the four-time Olympian from Remsen, N.Y., was in second place at the second intermediate time, before concluding her final career sprint race in seventh. She will retire after the upcoming Winter Games.
Both U.S. racers will be in the A seed for the Olympics, with their events to take place February 12-13. Their respective first runs in Pyeongchang will be among the first 12 lugers. First time Olympian Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., will open the Olympics in the second group.
Meanwhile, in warm and variable conditions that offered snow, sleet and rain in the Baltic region, three-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer also raced to a sixth place result in the two-heat men’s singles event that started the day. It was Mazdzer’s best result of the season.
“I’m really happy with today,” said the Saranac Lake, N.Y. competitor. “We’ve been working on my sled since day one. Now we’re starting to home in on my aerodynamic position. We’ve made some changes with that. Now I wish we could get on another track. I wish I had a little more time, but I have to take what I can get.” That amounts to six training runs in South Korea.
Olympic teammates Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn. and Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah were 10th and 25th, respectively. To begin the Olympic men’s race, Mazdzer and West will be in coveted A group, while Morris will be just outside those 15, when the action occurs on February 10-11.
Semen Pavlichenko of Russia, 2015 World Champion, snuck past Felix Loch of Germany by just 0.01 of a second in the traditional singles event. But the silver medal for the two-time defending Olympic champion was good enough to clinch his sixth World Cup overall title, in front of Austrian World Champion Wolfgang Kindl, fifth in Sunday’s singles competition.
Last year’s World Cup season-long champion, Roman Repilov, also of Russia, raced to the bronze medal and was third for the year.
The IOC announced Saturday that Pavlichenko and Repilov may compete in South Korea next month under the banner of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).
Repilov won the sprint with Loch third, Mazdzer was 10th and West 13th.
On the overall campaign, West finished 10th on the World Cup list, Mazdzer 18th and Morris 19th.
The team relay concluded the day and the World Cup campaign; the event saw the teams with the most track time over the years dominate the medals.
Russia took gold, with Tatyana Ivanova, expecting a decision on her Olympic status at the end of the week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, racing the second fastest lead leg. After hitting the touch pad, she turned it over to Pavlichenko. The ultimate risk-taker brought his team into the lead by a substantial 0.4 of a second. The victory was wrapped up by the doubles sled of Alexandr Denisov and Vladislav Antonov. They were timed in 2 minutes, 13.428 seconds.
Denisov and Antonov have also been approved to race as OAR athletes in South Korea.
Germany took second, 0.15 from Russia, with Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch, Toni Eggert and Sasha Benecken, yet they dominated the six team relays, winning four, and took the crystal awarded to the season’s champions.
Latvia was third, only 0.02 from the Germans, as the Sics brothers, Andris and Juris, anchored the bronze medal after taking a silver medal in the earlier sprint event behind Eggert and Benecken.
The Americans entered the team relay with an opportunity to finish in the top three for the season, yet every athlete encountered difficulty. First, it was Britcher who crashed but got back on her sled to hit the touch pad. But by then, the race was over for the United States. West, Mortensen and Terdiman then followed, but could not complete their runs cleanly either. The group wound up ninth in the race and sixth on the season.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Kazakhstan were disqualified for missing the touch pad, reminding teams that the relay contains vagaries that will get the attention of all nations. The event will be contested again in South Korea after making its Olympic debut in Sochi. It will close the books on the 2018 Olympic luge races on February 15.
NBCSN will carry two hours of World Cup coverage from Sigulda tonight at 10 PM ET.
For complete results and final World Cup standings from today’s races, please log on to:
Notes to media:
After this weekend, USA Luge singles racers will work their way to Seoul and ultimately, Pyeongchang, arriving Feb. 4. The doubles athletes, who cannot get on the ice immediately in South Korea, will have a pre-Olympic camp in Nagano, Japan in the coming week. Nagano is site of the team’s first two Olympic medals 20 years ago. The U.S. doubles teams will arrive in Pyeongchang Feb. 8.
Press conferences in Pyeongchang are set for 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.
Pyeongchang race schedule: Men’s singles Feb. 10-11; women’s singles Feb. 12-13; Doubles Feb. 14; Team Relay Feb. 15. All events will be held at night. Unlike Sochi, we will have real winter next month. Please dress appropriately and in layers.
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org