USA 4th in relay
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The final night of Olympic luge racing at the Alpensia Sliding Centre brought Team USA to the brink of another medal before three nations closed the door on the Americans’ hopes for a second trip to the podium.
The team of Summer Britcher, Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, starting fourth from the end of the field Thursday night, touched the finish pad in first place and then needed some help to reach the Olympic podium in the team relay.
Thanks to the doubles team of Mortensen and Terdiman, determined to avenge their doubles race of 24 hours earlier, USA Luge went to the head of the field in 2 minutes, 25.091 seconds.
“Jayson and I had a pretty good run on that last run,” said Mortensen, a two-time Olympian from Huntington Station, N.Y. “The team as a whole did what we could to put forth our best finish. All you can do is your best.”
“I felt pretty good about it (our time),” remarked Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., who led the men’s field in reaction to the opening of the start gate. “The thing about this track is that there’s a lot of variability. People are messing up, but Canada, Austria and Germany came down with three awesome runs. So that’s something that’s really hard to beat. We were close, so close, but that’s racing here.”
The three remaining teams were not to be denied.
First it was Canada. Entering these Pyeongchang Winter Games, this winter sports nation had never medaled in luge. But in the same week, Alex Gough broke the drought with a bronze medal, and then raced the lead leg as her team secured the silver medal. At the same time, she set the table for Sam Edney and the doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith to finally collect Olympic hardware.
Walker and Snith touched the overhead pad, stopping the clock in 2:24.872. The team’s two-medal performance wiped out the memory of the Sochi Games that saw Canada take fourth place three times.
Austria ran next and was propelled by 2018 Olympic gold medal winner David Gleirscher and the silver medal pairing of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler. They settled into the bronze medal position in 2:24.988.
The Americans were now at the mercy of fate and divine intervention in the form of powerhouse Germany. The defending team relay Olympic champions raced two Pyeongchang gold medal sleds in the form of Natalie Geisenberger and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. In between they entered bronze medalist Johannes Ludwig.
The result was a track record time of 2:24.517, which sent the U.S. foursome to fourth place, just 0.1 of a second from the podium after almost three miles of racing.
“I feel really bad for my teammates, but that’s racing,” stated Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa. “Things happen. You have to risk it to go for that finish that you want.”
The near miss for USA Luge was a bitter pill after the euphoria of having teammates Erin Hamlin carry the U.S. flag into the Opening Ceremony, followed two days later by Mazdzer’s scintillating silver medal effort.
Nevertheless, the team relay, which made its Olympic debut in Sochi, remains an exciting event.
“This is the greatest part of the sport, in my opinion,” said Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., also a two-time Olympian. “We’re a very individualized sport and we get to come together as a team and have that momentum together. It’s amazing. We’re Team USA. We’re very proud of the way we performed. No matter what happened, we all left it out on the ice tonight.”
As the Olympic luge competitions come to an end, the final medal tally shows Germany with six (3-1-2), Austria with three (1-2-0), Canada claimed two (0-1-1) and the United States one (0-1-0).