USA Luge wins two medals in Sigulda World Cup

Team USA’s women’s doubles team of Chevonne Forgan, left, and Sophie Kirkby stand on top the podium in Sigulda, Latvia. (Provided photo — FIL/Mareks Galinovskis)

SIGULDA, Latvia — Following a two-week holiday break, USA Luge returned back to FIL Luge World Cup action on Jan. 7 and 8 in Sigulda, Latvia.

After the United States picked up two medals in its last World Cup in Park City on Dec. 16 and 17, 2022, the team repeated its efforts in Sigulda, earning a silver in women’s doubles and a bronze in the team relay.

Women’s doubles

Racing on the difficult track with frigid temperatures, Sophie Kirkby, of Ray Brook, and Chevonne Forgan, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, executed steady runs to secure a best-ever result to win a silver medal. The double team took second place with a time of one minute, 25.138 seconds.

“I am so excited to have our best-ever finish here in Sigulda,” Kirkby said in a statement. “We put down some clean, fast runs and I’m so happy with our result. It means so much to get the silver here since we have both had lots of trouble on this track in the past.”

“Our runs today were really good,” Forgan said. “I was very happy with them. We have been having really clean runs during training and we were able to put two clean runs together for race day.”

Latvia’s Anda Upite and Sanija Ozolina secured the gold medal with a time of 1:24.926 and Germany’s Jessica Degenhardt and Cheyenne Rosenthal took third place in 1:25.261.

The American team of Maya Chan, of Chicago, Illinois, and Reannyn Weiler, of Whitesboro, did not compete. They are recovering from a crash earlier this week, but plan to race in the next World Cup event.

Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, and Emily Sweeney, of Lake Placid, were not scheduled to compete in the race. The duo have chosen to participate in select events this season.

Andrea Vtter and Marion Oberhofer of Italy remain the overall World Cup leaders with 500 points. Austria’s Selina Egle and Lara Kipp are second with 485 points and Degenhardt/Rosenthal remain in third with 416 points.

Following the silver medal, Forgan/Kirkby are fourth with 320 points. Britcher/Sweeney are in fifth place with 295 points and Chan/Weiler sit in seventh with 252 points.

Women’s singles

2022 Olympian Ashley Farquharson, of Park City, Utah, was the top U.S. women’s singles slider on Jan. 7. She took 10th place in 1:23.872.

“I was happy with my race,” Farquharson said. “There is definitely still time left in the runs, but I felt like I made some good steps. I’ve never felt very comfortable in Sigulda, so to see some progress today is a big confidence booster that I can carry with me into next week.”

Germany’s Dajana Eitberger secured a track record of 41.488 and won the gold medal in 1:22.999. Eitberger, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist who served as guest commentator during the live broadcast of the women’s doubles race, announced that she is planning to only focus on doubles next season.

Latvia’s Elina Vitola won the silver medal in 1:23.093 and Julia Taubitz, of Germany, secured bronze in 1:23.143.

Sweeney, a two-time Olympian with three World Cup silver medals this season, held fourth place following the first run, but hit the right wall out of curve 14 in her second heat. She dropped back into 17th place with a time of 1:24.432.

Five-time World Cup winner and three-time Olympian Britcher and Verena Hofer of Italy tied for 12th place with a time of 1:24.188. Brittany Arndt, of Park City, Utah, claimed 14th place in 1:24.194.

Taubitz remains the overall World Cup leader with 465 points. Eitberger moves into second place with 427 points, bumping Austria’s Madeleine Egle into third place with 393 points. Sweeney sits in fourth with 351 points, Britcher holds ninth place with 237 points, Farquharson 10th with 221 points and Arndt 12th with 198 points.

Men’s doubles

Latvia’s Martins Bots and Roberts Plume won the gold medal in the men’s doubles competition in 1:22.642. The duo also secured a track record of 41.281 in front of their home crowd.

The silver medal went to Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt in 1:22.798, followed by Italy’s Emanuel Rieder and Simon Kainzwaldner in third in 1:23.024.

The American duo of Zack DiGregorio, of Medway, Massachusetts, and Sean Hollander, of Lake Placid, placed eighth. The 2022 Olympians finished with a time of 1:23.699.

With frigid temperatures, the hard ice became difficult to control the sled, resulting in bumps and bruises for several athletes. USA Luge athletes Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger were among those impacted by the weather. Kellogg, of Chesterfield, Massachusetts, and Segger, of Lake Placid, crashed at the exit of curve 14 on their second run, resulting in damage to their sled. The duo walked away from the incident but did not finish the race.

Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany remain at the top of the World Cup overall standings with 460 points. Wendl and Arlt move into second with 429 points. The Austrian team of Thomas Gatt and Martin Schpf are third with 400 points. DiGregorio/Hollander holds eighth with 271 points and Kellogg/Segger are 16th with 140 points.

Team relay

In the team relay event on Jan. 8, Sweeney put the U.S. in second place with a solid first run, while Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, followed, setting the third-fastest finish time.

In the final leg of the race, the doubles team of DiGregorio and Hollander posted the third fastest time of the race to give the quartet a bronze medal with a total time of 2:12:948.

“It feels amazing to get our first World Cup podium today,” DiGregorio said. “We have been close in the past, but to finally do it was great. The whole team performed top-notch, so hoping we can try and make another step next weekend.”

“A huge thank you to all the support we’ve had, from teammates to coaches to family and sponsors,” Hollander said. “The whole operation made this happen today. We couldn’t be more thankful for everyone involved and cheering us on.”

“Yesterday was pretty rough so that’s why I was a little tentative coming out of there so I wish I could have done better. But with third, we are happy,” Sweeney said.

“It’s always a difficult jump to go from men’s start to women’s start as the lines are similar but the slower speeds change your lines for sure,” West said. “Sigulda is a scary relay. The pad comes quick, and the upper curves are a little different than from the top. I’m just happy to keep it sealed down and come out with a medal.”

Team Latvia, comprised of Vitola, the doubles team of Bots and Plume and Kristers Aparjods won the gold medal and secured a track record in 2:12.111. Germany’s Eitberger, Wendl, Arlt and Felix Loch took silver with a time of 2:12.339.

Germany and Latvia are tied for first place in the World Cup overall standings with 185 points, with Team USA in third with 125 points.

Men’s singles

Latvia’s Aparjods reached the podium for the first time this season in the men’s singles race. He won the gold medal on his home track in 1:35:228. Aparjods also secured a track record in both heats. That mark now stands at 47.613, set in the second heat.

Max Langenhan, of Germany, took silver in 1:35.481 and Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller took bronze in 1:35.495.

West completed two clean runs, landing him in 10th place with a time of 1:36.358, while Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, experienced a crash at the exit of curve 14. He recovered and finished the race but was disqualified for losing sliding equipment. As a result, Gustafson will compete in the Nation’s Cup to qualify for the second Sigulda World Cup on Jan. 14.

Fischnaller leads the overall standings with 465 points, Germany’s Wolfgang Kindl is in second with 372 points, followed by David Gleirscher of Austria with 351 points. U.S athletes are led by West in seventh with 257 points and Gustafson in 12th with 210 points. 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer only competed in North America and finished his season with 114 points.

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