USA Luge announces its national team for upcoming season
LAKE PLACID — USA Luge recently announced its National team for the upcoming season. The national team includes all eight members of the Beijing Olympic team. The group combined totals 16 Olympic berths, while adding some medal-winning newcomers with its veteran sliders.
Chris Mazdzer, of Salt Lake City, Utah and Saranac Lake, has decided to continue his career, which includes a 2018 Olympic silver medal and four United States Olympic teams. He placed eighth in men’s singles in Beijing and seventh as a member of the team relay.
Mazdzer, however, will not compete full-time in 2022-2023, opting to compete as a member of the “B” team in the Whistler and Park City World Cup events in December of this year.
Six athletes comprise the “A” team, including singles racers Tucker West and Summer Britcher, both three-time Olympians. West, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, recorded a silver and bronze medal in the team relay last year in World Cup competition.
Britcher, from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, suffered an untimely broken finger just prior to the Winter Olympics, hampering her start technique and speed. She tallied a bronze medal in a World Cup team relay. Britcher has five World Cup career victories — the most in U.S. luge singles history.
Two women’s doubles teams complete the “A” team. World Championship bronze medal winners Chevonne Forgan, of Chelmsford, Massachussets, and Sophie Kirkby, of Ray Brook, are joined by Maya Chan, of Chicago, Illinois, and Reannyn Weiler, of Whitesboro. The latter doubles team finished third overall in the women’s World Cup doubles standings last season, the first year in the discipline.
Forgan and Kirkby also registered a pair of World Cup podium results, while Chan and Weiler had three World Cup bronze medals and a fourth place at the World Championship. The latter duo was also named to the Junior National “A” Team.
The National “B” team consists of Ashley Farquharson, Emily Sweeney, Mazdzer, Jonny Gustafson and the doubles team of Zack DiGregorio and Sean Hollander.
Farquharson, of Park City, Utah, in her Olympic debut, was 12th in the 2022 Olympic singles race and seventh as part of the team relay. She also collected her first career World Cup medal, a silver in the team relay last November.
Sweeney, of Lake Placid, battled the Olympic qualifying process last year. As a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, she was not allowed to compete in Russia where two World Cup/Olympic qualifying events were held. Sweeney met the criteria for the Games with a fifth-place result in her next start.
Gustafson, of Massena, was 19th in his first Olympic competition in Beijing. He placed in the top 15 in three World Cup competitions, racing early in the season with borrowed equipment due to lengthy transportation delays from Beijing to the resumption of the World Cup tour.
DiGregorio, of Medway, Massachussets, and Hollander, of Lake Placid, were the only U.S. doubles entry at the Olympics. The surprise qualifiers — who capitalized on a last-ditch opportunity when the duo of Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman crashed — gained significant experience in the month leading up to and through Beijing.
On Terdiman’s borrowed sled in Beijing, DiGregorio and Hollander placed 11th in the doubles event and anchored a seventh place in the team relay.
Brittney Arndt, of Park City, Utah, after a season’s best 12th place World Cup, was named to the “C” team. The doubles sled of Dana Kellogg, of Chesterfield, Massachussetts, and Duncan Segger, of Lake Placid, are in the Graduating Junior category. Kellogg underwent shoulder surgery at the end of the season and is now in rehabilitation.
Supporting the athletes will be a mix of returning and new staff members. Coaches Lubomir Mick and Kaspars Dumpis, Olympians for Slovakia and Latvia, respectively, will guide the team for the 2022-23 campaign. Mick has been a national team coach with USA Luge for the past nine years, while Dumpis served as assistant coach with the Junior National Team for the past three years. Pat Anderson will continue to serve as head coach of the Junior National Team after winning 17 medals in youth and junior events last season.
Martin Hillebrand joined USA Luge as the National Team’s start coach. Hillebrand served as start coach for the German, Russian, Austrian and Italian teams, coaching an almost countless amount of Olympic, World Championship and World Cup medals over four decades.
Bengt Walden, who coached with National Team since 2016, is taking a year sabbatical.
Anderson is supported by new hire Arturs Darznieks, who will serve as Junior National Team assistant coach. Darznieks is a two-time Olympian who raced for Latvia. Aidan Kelly, a 2014 Olympian, remains in charge of the Junior C and D teams, while recently retired two-time Olympian Terdiman will split his time between all three junior teams.
Caroline Kannel will travel with the National Team as their trainer, while Tori Lam will serve the same role for the Junior National Team.
The National Team is expected to hit the ice in early October for pre-season training in Europe. World Cup action will resume Dec. 3-4 in Igls, Austria, when the nine-race season kicks off. The circuit will return to the U.S. for the first time since 2019 for the EBERSPCHER World Cup on Dec. 16-17 in Park City, Utah. World Championships are slated to take place in Oberhof, Germany on Jan. 27-29, 2023.
Currently, the majority of the team are training in Lake Placid, working in the refrigerated luge start training facility and Olympic/Paralympic Training Center.