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Luge tour stops in Placid

December 13, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The World Cup luge tour makes its final stop before the holiday break in Lake Placid this weekend, and members of the United States national team are hoping for a successful two days of racing on home ice.

Based on past results on Mount Van Hoevenberg's track from recent years, the Americans have a good reason to be optimistic. But at the same time, all the Americans, as well as the rest of the international field, realize a sliver of a second can make all the difference in the world between a podium result or finishing well back in the pack.

The World Cup kicks off with doubles racing and men's singles luge on Friday, Dec. 15 and moves into the women's event and sprints Saturday, Dec. 16.

Article Photos

Saranac Lake's Chris Mazdzer, a veteran slider on the United States Luge Team, talks to third-graders at the Lake Placid Elementary School, while teammate Emily Sweeney demonstrates positioning on the sled during a visit to the school on Monday, Dec. 11. The sliders are in town this week for the World Cup competition that takes places Friday, Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 16 at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
News photo — Lou Reuter

Last December, Connecticut native Tucker West won the men's singles race in Lake Placid, and the doubles team of Jayson Terdiman and Matt Mortensen earned a long awaited medal, claiming silver to become the first Americans to reach the doubles podium in six years of World Cup competition.

West is hoping to have an edge on the track where he first hopped on a luge sled as a 9-year-old. He said competing here will be extra challenging due to the hard, fast ice that is expected as temperatures plummet over the next couple of days.

"I've taken thousands of runs here, but hard ice does even the playing field a little bit," said West, who also claimed silver in Lake Placid when its hosted World Cup action in 2015. "It's generally a little milder in Europe, and that has a bearing on ice conditions. When it's cold here, it makes an infamous track even more infamous."

Fact Box

Lake Placid Luge World Cup


Friday, Dec. 15

10 a.m. Doubles, first run

11:20 a.m. Doubles, second run

12:40 p.m. Men's singles, first run

2:15 p.m. Men's singles, second run

Saturday, Nov. 16

9:30 a.m. Women's singles, first run

10:50 a.m. Women's singles, second run

12:05 p.m. Doubles Luge Sprint Cup

12:45 p.m. Women's singles Luge Sprint Cup

1:30 p.m. Men's singles Luge Sprint Cup


Athletes to Watch

Men's Singles

Felix Loch, Germany: Two-time Olympic champion

Wolfgang Kindl, Austria: 2016 overall World Cup silver medalist

Tucker West, USA: 2014 Olympian

Chris Mazdzer, USA: Two-time Olympian from Saranac Lake

Women's Singles

Natalie Geisenberger, Germany: 2014 Olympic champion

Tatjana Huefner, Germany: 2010 Olympic champion

Erin Hamlin, USA: 2014 Olympic bronze medalist


Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt, Germany: 2014 Olympic champions

Andreas Sics/Juris Sics, Latvia: 2014 Olympic bronze medalists

Matt Mortensen/Jayson Terdiman, USA: 2017 overall World Cup bronze medalists

Before they have the opportunity to step up to the start line Friday afternoon, West, along with his four other men's singles teammates will have to qualify Thursday, Dec. 14, when it's expected to be especially cold. He said about 40 racers will be vying to be among the 32 athletes participating in the actual World Cup men's singles event, and none of the Americans are among the 15 athletes who have already qualified for the race.

West, two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, Taylor Morris, John Fennell and Jonny Gustafson were all hoping to have two solid qualifying runs and move on represent the U.S. men on Friday.

"I think all five of us have a shot at moving on, but nothing is guaranteed," West said. "One bump off the wall can put you out for the entire weekend.

"As a team, we haven't had the best start to the season," West continued. "We're still figuring things out. We've made a lot of sled changes, and a lot of runs were cut in the preseason due to weather. But then again, we haven't had a terrible start either. I have a top-10 and a couple 16th places. The good news is our starts are wicked fast, and our sleds are going fast. The key is dialing it in to get from point A to point B ahead of the rest of the field."

Two years ago, Mazdzer won the men's singles title in Lake Placid during a fantastic season in which he finished third overall in the World Cup rankings. The Saranac Lake resident said his mindset this weekend is all or nothing as he tries to build some momentum with the Olympics less than two months away. Mazdzer finished fourth in Lake Placid last December, missing the podium by a mere two-hundredths of a second.

"There's nothing in between," Mazdzer said. "I'd rather mess up and crash than have clean runs and go slow. I'm looking for a top five. It's going to be cold, it's going to be fast hard ice, and this track can make people nervous. It comes down to who can deal with this difficult track under the conditions we will be racing in."

Last December, the veteran team of Terdiman and Mortensen ended a long drought for the U.S. when they slid to a silver medal in Lake Placid to give the Americans their first doubles podium finish in six years. They're hoping to repeat, or even better the accomplishment when doubles kicks off the World Cup events starting at 10 a.m. Friday.

On Saturday, Dec. 16, Erin Hamlin will be one of the women's singles racers to watch as the Remsen native competes in her final World Cup race on the same track where she made history by sliding to a World Championship title in February 2009. Hamlin, who won bronze at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, announced she will be retiring from a storied career when this season wraps up at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

Hamlin's top finish so far this season, a fourth-place result in Winterberg, Germany, qualified the 31-year-old for her fourth trip to the Winter Olympics.

Saturday's women's event begins at 9:30 a.m., and will be followed with doubles, women's and men's sprint racing.

Following Saturday's competition, the U.S. will name its Olympic luge team for South Korea. The group of 10 athletes will feature three men and three women singles racers and two doubles teams.



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