World Cup luge team finalized
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The USA Luge doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman and singles racer Tucker West, all members of the 2014 Sochi Olympic team, won their respective divisions for the second consecutive race as the Norton seeding series ended Sunday morning in Pyeongchang.
Emily Sweeney, looking to make her Olympic debut in three months, captured her division in beautiful sunny conditions. Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin finished third.
Sunday’s winners were the overall Norton seeding champions.
Mortensen, of Huntington Station, and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pennsylvania, third in the World Cup last season, won by a rousing 1.5 seconds.
“Each run, we got better and better down the track,” Mortensen said. “All three runs were pretty consistent. We were testing out equipment between second and third runs and still managed to have nice consistent runs, so I’m happy with how today went.”
“I think today was probably the only solid training day for us,” Terdiman remarked. “We’ve had a lot of trouble out of curve nine. so far this week. Today, we were three for three out of there, which was amazing. We had some trouble yesterday. We had some decent ice and our grip was gone. We had no control, so we were able to make some small changes to the sled between the first and second runs yesterday, and allowed us a little bit more grip. And we did a small change overnight that allowed us to be a little more confident in the sled and the setup that we’re riding. Today was just a dream compared to what we’ve been doing.”
Their two best efforts totaled 1 minute, 34.776 seconds. Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk were runners-up, followed by Jake Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza in third place.
The Pyeongchang seeding race was previously unscheduled on the 2018 Olympic course, but when the final two events were rubbed out by a sandstorm in Calgary and unusually warm weather in Lake Placid, U.S. coaches were forced to place this event in South Korea during the international training week that includes athletes from 29 nations.
The race finalized the U.S. World Cup team, where Raychel Germaine used a tiebreaker to edge Brittney Arndt for the fourth position as per the women’s quota. Sweeney, Hamlin, Germaine and 2014 Olympian Summer Britcher will start the World Cup season two weeks from now in Igls, Austria.
The men’s team has five athletes — also dictated by the World Cup quota — with West being joined by two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, Taylor Morris, Jonny Gustafson and John Fennell.
All three doubles teams will be in Igls. Krewson and Sherk, along with Hyrns and Espinoza, will team with Mortensen and Terdiman for the World Cup opener.
The seeding race gave all 13 sleds some wiggle room. All athletes received three runs, and totaled their best two, throwing out their slowest heat.
West discarded his middle run, while his other two attempts led the field. The Ridgefield, Connecticut racer, who admitted to some struggles thus far with tricky curve nine, posted a combined time of 1:38.020, outdistancing Gustafson, of Massena, who recorded a 1:38.403. Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, was 0.001 of a second from Gustafson in third place, while Morris finished fourth and Fennell, a dual citizen from Calgary, fifth.
“It’s literally and figuratively hard work out here,” West said. “The track is slowly coming together, figuring things out. It’s a slow and painful process. Luckily, we have five or six more days here and I’m seeing really good progress. Things are coming together. So hopefully at the end of our time here, we’ll have everything all nailed down.”
The world’s newest combination track for luge, bobsled and skeleton is not deemed dangerous by the field of racers, but those who negotiate curve nine cleanly will have a decided edge in February. In last year’s pre-Olympic World Cup test events, that section turned several race results upside down.
“Curve nine is still very difficult,” West said. “It’s still the crux of the track. I’d say they changed it slightly from February, maybe adding a little bit of ice at the end of the curve and making the transition between curves eight and nine a little bit easier so the set-up is easier. But I still had a low success rate out of there.”
Meanwhile, the effervescent Sweeney is embracing this critical section of the layout.
“I think it’s nice to have a challenging component to the track,” she stated. “It definitely makes things exciting. It’s nice to see the camaraderie between everyone having the same challenge no matter where you’re from. I’m a fan of it. I don’t think they should change it.”
This is the Suffield, Conn. luge racer’s second visit to Alpensia, and she may be coming to terms with its uniqueness.
“It’s much better for me than it was in February,” Sweeney said. “That’s for sure. It’s coming together well. I have a lot more confidence in my sliding here. The (curve) profiles are more normal, compared to February, so I can just relax and let the sled run, find the pressures where I can and make it work.”
Her first two attempts totaled 1:34.664, while Britcher registered 1:35.043. Hamlin, of Remsen, put down a combined 1:35.212 for third place, followed by Arndt and Germaine.
Arndt will join the Junior National Team in Altenberg, Germany and prepare for the Junior World Cup tour and the Junior World Championships Feb. 1-2.
Germaine will race in her second World Cup season with a chance to qualify in November and December for the Games in February.
For those gathered at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, training continues through Nov. 11, with a team relay session scheduled on the final day. Thereafter, the competitors, other than the Koreans, will not see the venue until Games time.