The U.S. luge team will bring a blend of youth and experience to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Currently, there are four men are vying for three singles spots at the Sochi Games. Chris Mazdzer will look to improve from his 13th-place finish in Vancouver, should he qualify. Taylor Morris, Aidan Kelly and Tucker West also have their eyes set on Sochi.
On the women’s side, 2009 world champion Erin Hamlin and 2012 national champion Julia Clukey have Olympic experience and will strive for one of the three women’s slots along with Emily Sweeney, Kate Hansen and Summer Britcher.
The U.S. doubles field will likely have three sleds vying for two Olympic start positions. Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman have been ranked in the world cup top 10 since becoming a team in 2010. Niccum, a two-time Olympian, underwent his second back surgery in early 2012, and returned to on-ice training in December.
Also ranked in the world cup standings is the rising duo of Matt Mortensen and 2006 Olympian Preston Griffall, who have combined for fifth- and sixth-place world cup finishes. Newcomers Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk are now in their first full season of world cup racing, and will enter the Olympic mix as they continue to accumulate experience at the elite level.
The four U.S. members who will compete in the Olympic relay event – featuring one men’s single, one women’s single and one doubles pair – will be selected from the 10-member squad.
Luge will be contested at the Sliding Center Sanki during the Sochi Games. The state-of-the-art track is built at the Alpika Service Mountain Ski Resort, with its track finishing area located at Rzhanaya Polyana.
- Julia Clukey has been hampered by physical injuries over the past two years, but rebounded to won the 2012 National Championship. She also started off the 2012-13 season with two top-10 finishes in world cup events. Clukey returned to competition after having knee surgery, as well as surgery to correct Arnold-Chiari Syndrome. During the latter procedure, eight millimeters of bone were removed from the base of her skull to relieve headaches, fatigue and nausea. Additionally, Clukey is well-known in her home state of Maine, where she spends time speaking with youth groups and also recently founding a camp for girls.
- USA Luge is collaborating with technical partners to extract more speed out of its sleds. Norton Saint-Gobain is providing steel analysis to create a recipe for a fast steel runner compound, while Dow Chemical is developing sled parts designed to dampen vibration. Meanwhile, the IndyCar Panther Racing Team and CD Adapco are providing virtual simulations to improve airflow. USA Luge will conduct testing at the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel in July 2013 to verify results from the studies.
- The luge relay event will make its Olympic debut at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Each nation will enter three sleds, including men’s and women’s singles contestants and a doubles crew. Each negotiates the track from the same starting point, and after crossing the finish line, the athlete must sit up and hit a touch pad overhanging the track. That mechanism opens the start gate for the next teammate. When the last athlete touches the pad, the team’s total time is recorded.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Julia Clukey is seeking her second-straight Olympic berth and has potential to be a real threat in Sochi. She has earned several top-six results and exhibits some of the fastest starts in world cup racing.
Two-time Olympian Erin Hamlin (2006, 2010) finished 2012 ranked sixth in the world cup standings. The 2009 world champion is one of the best drivers on the circuit with five world cup bronze medals to her name.
Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman
Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman captured a world cup bronze medal in their first year as a team – a rare feat in the world of elite luge racing. Niccum finished sixth at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games with Dan Joye. Terdiman’s youth and exuberance complments Niccum’s experience and ability.
The International Luge Federation will use the overall world cup rankings at the end of December to fill quota spots (110 total) for the Sochi Games. Each nation may have up to 10 athletes on their team, including three men’s singles, three women’s singles and two sets of doubles. To earn a spot for the U.S., athletes must rank in the top 37 for men, top 27 for women or top 17 for doubles.
Selection is based on 2013 World Cup performances, per criteria established by USA Luge. U.S. athletes are ranked based on how well they perform in world cup action. More weight is given to a high finish in each individual race over the mere accumulation of points over the full slate of races. If slots remain after the 2013 World Cup events, or if ties exist that cause the number of tied individuals to exceed the number of remaining slots, then race-offs may ensue for the remaining positions.
The U.S. relay will be comprised of the athlete with the fastest men’s singles run, the athlete with the fastest women’s singles run and the team with the fastest doubles run during Olympic competition. The relay event is the last of the four luge events on the Olympic schedule.
|Feb. 8-9||World Cup||Lake Placid, N.Y.|
|Feb. 9||Team Relay||Lake Placid, N.Y.|
|Feb. 23-24||World Cup||Sochi, Russia|
|Feb. 24||Team Relay||Sochi, Russia|
|September-November||Team selection races||TBD|
|December||End of qualification period|