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After skipping early races, USA Luge sliders preparing for World Cup

LAKE PLACID — Park City, Utah luge racers Brittney Arndt and Ashley Farquharson finished third and fourth, respectively, Friday, Dec. 11 to claim the final two women’s singles berths as USA Luge completed its roster for the second half of the Eberspacher World Cup tour. They will join Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney in World Cup singles races beginning right after New Year’s in Koenigssee, Germany. Sweeney and Britcher were exempt from qualifying based on last season’s results and their team status.

In Friday’s two-heat event, Sweeney, the 2019 World Championship bronze medalist, won for the second consecutive day. The 2018 Olympian posted a two-run total of 1 minute, 29.059 seconds on a clear, 25-degree morning on Mount Van Hoevenberg that saw the track quicken by some two-tenths of a second over Thursday. Britcher, a two-time Olympian, finished a mere 0.02 of a second behind Sweeney for her second straight runner-up placing. Arndt repeated Thursday’s third place result, 0.5 from Sweeney, with Farquharson fourth, 0.07 from third place.

Chevonne Forgan was fifth and Sophie Kirkby took sixth.

The United States men’s singles group will consist of 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, three-time World Cup winner and eight-time U.S. start champion Tucker West, and 2020 U23 World Championship silver medalist Jonny Gustafson. All three had pre-qualified. That was the order of finish once again Friday as Mazdzer came from behind in the final leg to overtake West. The gold medalist, trailing West by 0.04 at the halfway mark, clocked two runs in 1:44.397, to West’s 1:44.474. Gustafson wound up 0.38 of a second from Mazdzer. Sean Hollander was fourth, over one second off the pace.

After finishing runner-up on Thursday to veterans Mazdzer and two-time Olympic team member Jayson Terdiman, the doubles team of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger turned the tables Friday by recording the two best heats of the race on their way to victory. The youngsters, who entered the final three World Cups of last season, clocked 1:29.606. Mazdzer and Terdiman, exempted from qualifying, registered 1:29.668. Forgan and Kirby posted 1:32.500. The top two U.S. doubles sleds are confirmed for the World Cup.

Forgan and Kirkby have also formed a doubles team with an eye on the 2026 Winter Games. They will train together in the United States the remainder of the season as will the new doubles team of Zack DiGregorio and Hollander.

USA Luge did not compete in the first half of the World Cup season which ends Dec. 20, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and related international travel and quarantine regulations. But at this point in time, the team is set to fly overseas at the end of December and will follow the FIL’s health and safety protocols upon arrival.

“While COVID-19 is still a serious risk, I think we are making the right call by going over to race, and I know we will be as safe as possible the entire time,” Arndt said. “It’s been difficult sitting out the first half so I’m very anxious to get over there.”