USA Luge collects 2 golds, 1 silver
LILLEHAMMER, Norway — Five days into its first preseason camp of the fall, USA Luge athletes donned their race faces on Saturday, and dominated the annual Lillehammer Cup exhibition event on the 1994 Olympic course.
The doubles team of 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, and Jayson Terdiman captured their race, as Mazdzer took his first-ever doubles runs in Lillehammer. The 2019 World Championship bronze medalist, Emily Sweeney, finished second and two-time Olympian Tucker West took fourth. Brittney Arndt, the first run leader, backed up Sweeney in fifth place.
“The first week of sliding has been very productive for Chris and me,” said Terdiman, a two-time Olympian from Berwick, Pennsylvania. “Getting the cobwebs off from a long off-season didn’t take us more than three runs, and it’s been quite consistent ever since. Our last six runs have all been within one tenth of each other and getting very, very close to a new personal record for me.”
Collectively, the Americans also won the team competition (not a team relay).
USA Luge sent double Olympian Summer Britcher and junior Chevonne Forgan to the top of the track to compete with the men. Britcher also raced from the top here last fall.
In a field that included Germany’s double Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, Mazdzer and Terdiman had the second quickest times in each heat, good enough for the overall victory. The U.S. duo, who came together as a team in mid-October last fall, totaled 1 minute, 35.729 seconds for the two attempts.
“The Lillehammer Cup was a fun kick off to the season,” Terdiman said. “It’s nice to have a friendly competition with our counterparts in a stress-free environment. Honestly, the runs could have been better. In both runs, Chris and I had some skidding between curves five and six, which probably cost us a good bit of time. Luckily for us, it seems everyone has been having this same issue.”
Some of their problems will be addressed. A year ago, there was no time to develop their own doubles sled prior to the season. As a result, they competed in the World Cup and World Championships with the sled built for the now retired Matt Mortensen and Terdiman. But Mazdzer is physically bigger than Mortensen, making the fit less than ideal. However, a sled constructed by Norton, Dow and team coaches will await Mazdzer and Terdiman in Lake Placid when the team returns home next week for the continuation of on-ice preparation.
In addition to besting the Germans, Mazdzer, now back from shoulder surgery in February, and Terdiman overcame the top doubles teams from Austria and Italy as well as USA Luge juniors Dana Kellogg, of Chesterfield, Mass. and Duncan Segger, of Lake Placid. The junior national team is also training in Lillehammer.
German newcomer Anna Berreiter overtook Arndt and the rest of the field, with Sweeney in the runner-up position. Berrieter, third in the Junior World Cup standings last season, recorded two runs totaling 1:36.281 to Sweeney’s 1:36.532. Arndt, of Park City, Utah, clocked 1:36.949.
“My runs were nothing special,” said Sweeney, of Suffield, Connecticut. “I had very few training runs going into the race so these were actually my first two starts of the season. I’m just looking forward to more training and finding the rhythm of sliding that I love.”
For the 2018 Olympian, the 2019-2020 season will continue Sweeney’s recovery from her Olympic crash in the final run. She raced about half of last year, yet won her first World Championship medal. But with each passing week, South Korea is further removed from her physical and mental states.
“Looking back on last fall and thinking about how every run made me sick really makes me appreciate how far I’ve come over the last year,” she added. “I know there will be so many challenges to come this season, but I feel like I’m ready for them.”
The field included many members of the Austrian and Italian World Cup teams.
The fourth member of the U.S. women’s national team, Ashley Farquharson, of Park City, put down an eight place first heat before dropping back in the second leg. Farquharson is starting her first year at the top level of international racing.
Sophie Kirkby, of Ray Brook, a U.S. junior, was 16th after the first heat, but didn’t complete her second run. Michael O’Gara, from La Crescenta, Calif., also competed in this division.
In a race that looked like a World Cup event based on the start list and ensuing results, West had the sixth fastest runs of each leg on his way to fourth place. The 2014 and 2018 Olympic team member had the second and fastest starts in the race, respectively.
Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, was the next best American in ninth place.
Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl, trying to forget a lackluster second half of the 2019 campaign, blasted down the track with the two best times. The two-time World Champion registered a combined 1:38.987. Teammate Nico Gleirscher, brother of 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, was second, while German Felix Loch, Olympic gold medalist in 2010 and 2014, settled for third place.
David Gleirscher stumbled out of the gate with an 18th place first run, but recovered with the second-best time in the finale.
Dominik Fischnaller, of Italy, second at the mid-point of the race, opted out of the final heat.
Austrian Jonas Mueller, fourth at the intermission, crashed out of the last run.
Mazdzer, who now lives in Salt Lake City, did not enter the singles race.
Britcher was joined in the men’s competition by Forgan,. They were the lone women starting from the upper reaches of the Olympia Park layout.
U.S. junior men who joined the action were Sam Day, of Wantagh, Zack DiGregorio, Sam Eckert, from Wilmington, Keaton Jens, Sean Hollander, of Lake Placid, and Ian Smith.
The Lillehammer camp ends at the end of this week. From there, the U.S. national team returns to Lake Placid in anticipation of the track opening at Mount Van Hoevenberg. Meanwhile, the juniors will journey on to Sigulda, Latvia.