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USA Luge brings in record five medals in one day

December 20, 2016
Lake Placid News

PARK CITY, Utah - USA Luge saved its best for the last day of competition in the calendar year by scoring five World Cup medals on Saturday in Park City to set a single-day team record.

The deluge of medals was led by Erin Hamlin with gold in singles and the BMW World Cup Sprint Race. They were the third and fourth victories in a career that also includes an Olympic bronze medal and a World Championship.

"It's very exciting. It was a great race today," the Remsen native said. "We had perfect conditions. I'm just very relieved and happy I could capitalize on that and have two solid runs. It's my first good race of the season overall so I'm excited."

Hamlin's roommate, Emily Sweeney, took a pair of silver medals, giving her a career total of three medals, all silver and all just behind Hamlin.

"I've been in a tough spot mentally and physically," said Sweeney, of Suffield, Connecticut. "So to have this is really huge for everything. Everything is starting to pay off. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going. I'm really looking forward to world championships and the (Olympic) test event in PyeongChang."

Sweeney, the 2013 Junior World Champion in Park City, has been slowed this fall by a wrist injury that required surgery.

The women's sprint nearly produced a repeat of the medal sweep of Lake Placid in singles one year ago as Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, finished fourth behind Germany's Tatjana Huefner by an agonizing 0.002 of a second.

Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, 2014 Olympians on different sleds, picked up the bronze in the sprint race. For the team that came together in March 2014, it's their second career medal after a silver in the Lake Placid doubles event two weeks ago.

"The sprint cup is really good for us," said Mortensen, of Huntington Station. "It takes the start out of it. We're pretty good at sliding. We came here wanting to improve on our finish yesterday (fifth place in doubles) and that's exactly what we did."

"We had a great run. We're really fast sliders," added Terdiman. "We're going to keep working on our start, keep trying to improve. Hope we keep getting faster and faster. Can't argue with a bronze medal today. We're very happy about that."

With a sense of the dramatic, two of the five medals occurred on the biggest stage of the season when Hamlin raced to singles gold on the 2002 Olympic track in Park City, Utah.

"That's pretty cool," said Hamlin about the timing of her first win of the day. "Sometimes it's hard to tell because racing still feels the same. It's really exciting to have the country be able to see that. Get a little more exposure for the sport and hopefully people can see how exciting it is."

On a clear day in the Wasatch, with temperatures around 13 degrees, Hamlin put down the two fastest runs of the day. Her times of 44.649 and 44.608 seconds totaled 1 minute, 29.257 seconds.

"My starts today weren't where I would have liked them to be," Hamlin said. "They didn't feel really great. So there were some improvements I could have made there, but that's me, always trying to find something I could change. But the (second) run itself was very good. I felt really comfortable. I was able to capitalize on good training and feeling comfortable."

Sweeney sat in fourth place after the first heat. In the final, she raced past German World Cup leader Natalie Geisenberger, who had a luge boot split just before both runs. Also, Tatyana Ivanova, of Russia, crashed in the second heat entering curve 14 to end her medal hopes, leaving Sweeney at the head of the leaderboard with just her roomie remaining at the top of the track.

"It always makes it so much sweeter. Sitting at the top knowing Emily was the one in first makes it a little less pressure and it makes it a lot of fun," remarked the 30-year-old Hamlin. "It's always fun to celebrate with teammates. I've been racing a long time. It makes it that much more's an awesome day."

Sweeney was timed in 1:29.384.

"The (World Cup) runs weren't perfect," Sweeney said. "The first run I knew I had a little bit of time, but I kind of like racing like that. It gives me some kind of security going into the next run. (The final run) I just tried to let it go. My lines weren't perfect but I felt really good on the sled.

"I am so pleasantly surprised, but also it's just a relief. I really needed a win for myself. I didn't win but I won in my own mind so it's great."

Alex Gough, of Canada, was third, in 1:29.584, while Britcher slid into fifth place, and Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Georgia, took ninth for her second best World Cup result.

With the 200 points that come with winning two World Cup races, Hamlin advanced from just inside the top 10 in the overall rankings to third place. Sweeney and Britcher are sixth and seventh, respectively.

There was personal triumph, too, in that Germaine had a pair of ninth-place results Saturday to solidify her spot on the 2017 World Championship team. She's tied for 12th in the season standings. Germaine's progress is such that she has entered the first seed in the women's division and is exempt from Nations Cup qualifying when the tour resumes in Koenigssee, Germany three weeks from now.

The sprint events in all three disciplines are just reserved for the top 15 of the weekend races. It becomes a World Cup point bonanza for those who advance.

Like their women teammates displayed earlier, in the sprint Mortensen and Terdiman accelerated all the way down the speedy Park City course. And while some competitors had difficulty with curves 12, 13 and 14, the USA used its familiarity with the layout to not only avoid trouble, but use key pressure points in the corners to sling-shot their way to higher speed.

The sprint race and the overall World Cup doubles standings are nearly mirror images of one another. The American team placed right behind two German sleds in the race, and can be found fourth overall, behind three teams from Germany.

The U.S. team's bronze medal time of 32.938 was 0.05 from silver medalists Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, winners of five of the first six races this year, were the gold medalists in 32.838. They've opened a substantial lead in the World Cup rankings. Wendl and Arlt are a distant second, with Robin Geueke and David Gamm third.

Mortensen and Terdiman are in fourth place at the holiday recess. Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, are 12th overall after winding up 11th in the race.

Justin Krewson, of Eastport, and teammate Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, are 17th on the campaign. They were 10th in the sprint.

As he was in the singles race on Friday, Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. was the USA's best. Saturday he was sixth and is in sixth place in the season-long World Cup battle.

Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, was eighth for his second best career result. Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, was 10th. Mazdzer is 12th overall and Morris 13th.

The race itself was wrought with drama, as it appeared that Austrian Wolfgang Kindl was headed to victory until he hung onto curve 14 too long and capsized bringing his race to a sudden end with the finish line in sight.

The mishap allowed Italy's Dominick Fischnaller to hold onto first place with a winning time of 28.302. Park City singles winner Roman Repilov, of Russia, was just 0.005 slower and took silver, while Andi Langenhan, of Germany, was the bronze medal winner in 28.343.

Felix Loch, also of Germany, entered Park City with the tour lead, and departed in second place, replaced by Repilov. In fact, the two-time and defending Olympic champion was 0 for North America in four starts. Kindl is third, and now marking time until the World Championships on his home track in late January.

World Cup racing resumes January 5-6 to close the 12 days of Christmas.


Men just off Park City podium

PARK CITY, Utah On another atypical night for the Viessmann World Cup luge tour, Tucker West led the American effort Friday night in Park City with a fourth-place singles result, while the team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman landed in fifth place in an abbreviated doubles race.

Both sleds were victorious in the America-Pacific Championships, run concurrently with the World Cup meet.

Four seasons of weather hit the Wasatch Mountains earlier in the day, with a raging snowstorm moving into Park City in mid-afternoon, causing some road closures and a 90-minute delay of the start of competition.

It made no difference to Roman Repilov, of Russia, who threw nothing but the number one at the field. On a night where youth was served, the two-time junior world champion recorded the two fastest runs of the men's race to win the event. And it wasn't close.

Repilov, 20, paid no attention to the tricky second curve of the 2002 Olympic course, to put down heats of 46.167 and 46.087 seconds, totaling 1 minute, 32.254 seconds. He used a quick start and acceleration through the track's 15 curves to defeat Wolfgang Kindl, of Austria, by nearly 0.2 of a second. Kindl registered 1:32.450 and took a slim, 14-point lead over Repilov in the World Cup chase.

Italy's Dominick Fischnaller, 23, claimed the bronze medal in 1:32.572. The 21-year-old West, of Ridgefield, Conn., third after one leg, was next in 1:32.681.

"Fourth place stings. It always does," said West, a Sochi Olympian, after his career best Park City result. "I was right there, but it fell out of my hands toward the bottom there. I laid it all out on the line. I did all I could. My best result (in Park City) prior to this was 16th place. I'm chipping away at getting better and better here, so overall, I'm excited with the finish though it's not quite on the podium."

After two straight gold medals, the effort elevated West to a sixth place tie in the season-long World Cup standings, despite missing the first two races of the season after a disqualification in Winterberg, Germany for being overweight. With points in those two events, West would be much closer to the top of the list. Nevertheless, the Union College student continues his upward trajectory.

"I'm confident in my sled. It's set up exactly how I want it. Our sponsors have made really fast sleds.a shout out to Norton and Dow," continued West. "I'm getting more experience with all of these tracks and more and more confident. I'm getting more and more consistent. Start training with (assistant coach) Bengt Walden has paid off immensely over the summer. So a lot of little things are adding up. I think they're paying off pretty well."

Two-time and defending Olympic champion Felix Loch, of Germany, took fifth and dropped to third in the World Cup ranks. Two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., was seventh as he seeks the form he displayed last season when he finished third on the year.

"It wasn't what I hoped for," reflected Mazdzer, "I definitely left room for improvement. That's how racing goes. Sometimes you crush it, sometimes you definitely make a few mistakes. It's a bummer doing it at home. There's a lot to learn from this first half (of the season) and we're going to move forward.

"In the second run, I thought I had a really good curve two into three. It just pushed me into a weird skid and I lost control up there. So for sure I know I left a lot of time up top and you can't get it back."

Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, was 11th, marking his second best career finish and satisfied the selection criteria for his entry into the World Championships next month. Morris also finished second in the Nations Cup qualifier on Thursday night.

Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., ended up 17th. He, too, qualified through the Nations Cup on Thursday night. It was his best World Cup performance in his fledgling career.

John Fennell, of Calgary, who left the Canadian Luge Association last spring, did not qualify in that event.

Germany's Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt ended the four-race winning streak of their teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken in the one-heat event.

Wendl and Arlt, the defending Olympic, World and World Cup overall champions grabbed their first victory of the season in their fifth start. They came through the Delicate Arch in 44.742.

Andris and Juris Sics, brothers from Latvia and winners of three Olympic medals since 2010, had their best result of the season with the silver medal in 44.816. Eggert and Benecken were off the top rung of the doubles podium for the first time this season, settling for the bronze medal in 44.896.

Sochi Olympians Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., placed fifth, 0.09 of a second from a medal and retained their fourth place overall World Cup ranking.

"The race went pretty well for us. We put down a good run," said Mortensen. "A little mishap at the start but we're really happy with how we ended up tonight.

"We were out of synch on the paddles (at the start). There are two people on the sled so sometimes it's hard to stay in synch, especially when your paddling really fast. It's easy to get caught up on one another. So that's what happened on the second or third paddle. We got caught up and you have to re-set mid stride.

"Can't argue with a fifth place result," added Terdiman. "We're right there. We had a small mistake at the start. Probably cost us a medal this evening, but knowing that we had the speed there is very comforting, and look forward to getting back after it tomorrow in the sprint cup.

"You got to have a really short memory in this sport. You can make a mistake in one curve and you have to fix it in the next. Re-set right away, get that third, fourth, fifth paddle in, lay down, take a deep breath, go down the track."

Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y., a Lake Placid volunteer fireman, and his teammate Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., took 10th in 45.265 and are 17th in the overall World Cup.

Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich., and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, were 11th with a time of 45.339. They are 13th in the World Cup standings.

The latter two teams qualified via the Nations Cup on Thursday night.



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