LAKE PLACID - Apparently all that was needed for the United States Luge Team was some home cookin'.
USA Luge racers swept gold and silver medals in the men's and women's singles races, as well as the doubles race, Thursday night in the Nations Cup qualifier on a chilly Mount Van Hoevenberg evening.
Led by 2010 Olympian and four-time Norton National Champion Chris Mazdzer, the Americans took appropriate advantage of their familiarity with their home track. But they also seemed to be riding some momentum from the half-dozen top 10 finishes they piled up in last weekend's World Championships at Whistler, British Columbia.
Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, took Nations Cup gold, with Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, second.
"This is the hardest ice I've been on all year," said Mazdzer, "This track was hard. It was tough out there. All of us in the top four messed up. I just messed up the least of all of them. Hopefully the ice will be a little softer on Saturday."
Mazdzer, with his family in the bleachers adjacent to the finish line, had a time of 52.418 seconds down the mile-long track at the Olympic Sports Complex. Morris recorded 52.501.
Kate Hansen, 2008 World Junior Champion, captured the ladies' Nations Cup race, just 0.02 of a second ahead of teammate and 2013 World Junior Champion Emily Sweeney.
Hansen clocked 44.356 from the three-quarters of a mile long women's and doubles layout, with Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., second in 44.384.
"The start was solid," said Hansen. "Turns 10 and 11 were pretty good. I was hitting out of 12 a lot (in official training), but today I put it together, and hopefully I can do it tomorrow."
The doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall defeated compatriots Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk by half a second in the one-heat race format.
Both sleds advanced to the World Cup doubles event. The winners registered a time of 44.191. "We probably still have a tenth of a second to a tenth and a half that we can pick up," said Mortensen, not thoroughly satisfied with the night's work.
Also qualifying for the World Cup event on Saturday were Joe Mortensen (Matt's brother), in sixth place, and Isaac Underwood in ninth.
Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., a doubles slider who has been testing equipment all winter as teammate Christian Niccum recovers from injury, did not qualify. Terdiman will now forerun the weekend World Cup events.
Today's schedule begins at 10 a.m., with doubles and women's singles, while men's singles and the team relay are slated for Saturday, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
These are the first international races in Lake Placid since the 2009 World Championships and the first World Cup since November 2007. With a little momentum created and home ice knowledge, the U.S. contingent hopes to use this familiarity to get the snowball rolling into the World Cup two weeks from now at the Sochi Olympic site.
"It is really nice," concluded Hansen. "I was really so pumped just to be back in the training center and in the office. It's a nice hometown feeling."
Lake Placid will mark the first World Cup races ever to feature live television coverage in the United States. The television schedule is as follows:
- The final run of doubles, Friday at 11:10 AM Eastern Time, will air live on Universal Sports
- Women's second run to air via delay on NBC Sports Network
- Men's second run, Saturday at 11 AM Eastern Time, live on NBC Sports Network
- Team Relay, 1 PM Eastern Time, live on NBC Sports Network