Tucker West wins luge Kick-off start competition
LAKE PLACID — Three-time U.S. Luge Olympian Tucker West earned first place at the luge Kick-off Start Competition on Friday evening at USA Luge Start Facility in Lake Placid.
West and his USA Luge teammates competed against world-class athletes from around the world. The event, which was hosted by USA Luge and the International Luge Federation, kicked off the upcoming World Cup season in the Village on Friday and Saturday at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
The first heat of the competition featured a traditional luge start. Only the top eight sleds advanced to the second heat, which used a reaction start, a similar system used in the team relay event. Each nation was able to enter two sleds in each discipline.
West, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, posted a two-run total of 7.42 seconds, beating Gints Berzins of Latvia, who finished seven-hundredths of a second behind West with a time of 7.49. Mateusz Sochowicz of Poland was third in 7.52.
Jonny Gustafson of Massena tied Anton Dukach of Ukraine for 12th place and missed advancing to the next round by .01 seconds. 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, who grew up in Saranac Lake and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, did not compete.
“There’s a little bit of a home-field advantage here, but I had a great summer of training, and it’s been a fun kickoff event,” West said. “I knew the field would be strong and they showed up well. It’s been great to share this new facility with the rest of the world.”
West, who earned three World Cup victories over the years in Lake Placid and Whistler, said he is looking forward to starting the season in Lake Placid.
“(My past success here) adds some pressure, but I’m excited to get going and it’s great to start out with this,” he said.
Latvia’s Sigita Berzina led the women’s discipline with a two-run total of 8.01. Just .01 seconds separated the second and third place spots, with Elina Leva Vitola of Latvia in 8.04 for second place and Julia Taubitz of Germany taking third in 8.05.
Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, just missed the podium, taking fourth with a time of 8.11, while teammate Ashley Farquharson of Park City, Utah, placed 10th. Emily Sweeney of Lake Placid did not compete.
Three-time Olympians Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany took first place with a time of 7.64, followed by Italy’s Emanuel Rieder and Simon Kainzwaldner in second in 7.67, and Latvia’s Martins Bots and Roberts Plume in third with a time of 7.69.
The American duo of Zack DiGregorio of Medway, Massachusetts, and Sean Hollander of Lake Placid placed seventh with a time of 7.76, while teammates Dana Kellogg of Chesterfield, Massachusetts and Frank Ike of Lake Placid placed 15th.
Team USA women’s doubles teams earned personal best starts while also securing two spots on the podium. Germany’s Jessica Degenhardt and Cheyenne Rosenthal took first place with a time of 8.22. The American duo of Chevonne Forgan and Sophie Kirkby took second place in 8.31, and teammates Maya Chan and Reannyn Weiler placed third with a time of 8.36.
World Cup silver medalists Forgan, of Chelmsford, Massachussetts, and Kirkby, of Ray Brook, experienced a personal best start in the first heat with a time of 3.60.
“We had a great performance today, which is really nice in this first international start competition,” Kirkby said. “Today, we matched our regular pull on the start ramp so that was happy to see.”
“With this result today, we definitely want to carry that one onto next week for the first World Cup of the season,” Forgan said.
Chan, of Chicago, and Weiler, of Whitesboro, secured a personal best on their reaction time.
“We haven’t had a lot of training on reaction starts, especially because this is the first year the women’s doubles will be in the team relay,” Chan said. “It just felt really good to pull our best today.”
As for being part of the Team Relay competition this season, Weiler said they are ready.
“We had an opportunity to do it at the Youth Olympics and it was such a fun race,” she said. “I think that women’s doubles competing [in the team relay) will be a little more competitive, a little more intense, but I think we are ready for that challenge and excited to race for the first time in Whistler.”