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Luge: Britcher wins silver, relay team takes bronze in Germany

KOENIGSSEE, Germany — On another day affected by Bavarian weather, USA Luge raced to a bronze medal Sunday in a World Cup team relay on the oldest track in the world in Koenigssee.

The foursome of singles racers Summer Britcher and Tucker West, with the doubles sled of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman picked up the team’s second podium result of the season in the team discipline. The same group collaborated for a silver medal last month in Calgary. It was Britcher’s second medal of the weekend after Saturday’s silver in the singles event. She has four podium result in 2018-2019.

“The team relay is always my favorite race,” said Britcher, a two-time Olympian from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s great to have that feeling of being part of a team. I had a lot of fun racing yesterday and historically have done really well in the team relay race here. And it ended up okay with a third place finish.”

It was more of the same weather as World Cup athletes awoke to another Doctor Zhivago day as falling snow continued through the weekend races. And while the classic movie garnered five Oscars, the snow-laden setting was awarded a huge thumbs down by World Cup teams who prefer consistent race conditions that are adversely impacted by precipitation.

The morning men’s singles competition was victimized as it was decided to abandon the second run and revert to the first heat standings. The results were official with West eighth, Mazdzer ninth and Jonny Gustafson 13th. The timing of the sweep was important once again as Austrian Reinhard Egger, first to slide after the snow was cleared, took advantage of the opportunity and raced to the single-heat victory.

The U.S. relay team finished 0.5 of a second behind gold medalist Germany, with Austria taking the silver. The track crew cleared the snow after each team completed its three runs.

Through three events to date, USA Luge is in third place in the overall World Cup standings, only 10 points from second. There are three more team relays on this year’s schedule.

TEAM RELAY

From a singles standpoint, Germany offered somewhat of a new look in the relay. Saturday’s winner Julia Taubitz and men’s bronze medalist from the morning race, Sebastian Bley, put the home team in position to win. The doubles team of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, who were also victorious Saturday, anchored the gold medal by accelerating through the final turns of the course.

Germany was timed in 2 minutes, 47.982 seconds and sent patrons home happy as the 12 Days of Christmas concluded concurrently with the venue’s 50th birthday. Austria sent Hannah Prock and Egger down the track prior to the Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller duo. They placed 0.2 of a second behind the winners.

The U.S. effort was aided greatly by the reaction times of West and Mazdzer-Terdiman.

“Chris and I had the second best reaction among the doubles sleds which is a great thing for both of us to be doing,” said Terdiman, of Berwick, Pennsylvania. “We’re still building, still learning together. I’m really excited to be a part of this group, this team. A lot of big things coming.”

“When it comes to Jayson and me, that was one of our best runs of this entire week,” added Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, who won the 2018 Olympic silver medal. “It’s awesome to be able to do that in the team relay and also hitting the paddle because if you don’t hit the pad at the end, a good run doesn’t mean anything.”

Mazdzer was referring to the overhanging paddle beyond the finish line. Each athlete must hit the paddle to release the gate for their teammates at the top of the track. A miss would lead to disqualification.

While the Germans may have been lamenting the weather and what could have been on home ice, West took a different tack with his team in mind.

“The runs altogether were okay,’ said the Ridgefield, Connecticut resident. “Any time you can be within half a second of the Germans in Koenigssee, that’s huge. I think we’re showing time and time again, that we’re a force to be reckoned with in the relays. It’s exciting to see.”

The fourth of six World Cup team relays takes place next weekend in Sigulda, Latvia. 

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With temps in the mid-30s, the falling snow was wetter than Saturday and could stick to the ice surface creating an even slower surface than Saturday. Nevertheless, in the first, and as it turned out the only run, the density of the snowfall was less than 24 hours earlier. But it became heavier as the morning continued.

According to the FIL, part way into the second leg, “race director Matthias Boehmer, of Germany, stopped the race for safety reasons after 18 athletes had taken to the track in the second heat. Maria-Luise Rainer, Sports Director of the International Luge Federation, explained that the snow was causing severe impairment of vision.”

Egger, a two-time Olympian, scored his first World Cup win after a pair of bronze medals earlier in the season. His lone heat, which immediately followed a track sweep, was clocked at 50.084 after starting with just the 16th fastest start time. Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller trailed by just 0.02 of a second with Sebastian Bley, of Germany, collecting his first podium in 50.192, right behind the Italian.

West’s lone attempt was timed in 50.327. He pulled the third fastest start of the race. Mazdzer was 0.01 behind his teammate, with Gustafson racing down in 50.411 after picking up the bronze medal in Friday’s Nations Cup qualifying.

The men’s World Cup chase has now tightened considerably. Johannes Ludwig, of Germany, despite a 20th place finish, remains atop the overall World Cup rankings with 441 points. Russian Roman Repilov, fifth today, is second on the season with 413. Wolfgang Kindl, of Austria, who will defend two world titles later this month, is next with 404. Kindl finished 11th in the one run race.

Overall, Mazdzer is 11th; West 13th; Gustafson, of Massena, is 17th on the 2018-2019 season.

Broadcast (cable) coverage from Koenigssee is slated for the Olympic Channel on Jan. 6 from 5-6 PM ET. Live streaming will continue for the duration of the campaign on OlympicChannel.com.