The U.S. luge team bid farewell to 2015 in the best way possible – by breaking its single-season record of medals won. Through the first four world cups of the 2015-16 season, Team USA has won 15 medals, surpassing the previous mark of 13.
The long-standing record was set in 1996-97 and was matched last season.
Chris Mazdzer, a two-time Olympian, broke the record when he earned silver on Saturday in Calgary, Alberta, for USA Luge’s 14th medal. Summer Britcher, a 2012 Youth Olympian and 2014 Olympian, furthered the record when she won the women’s sprint race later in the day.
The Americans were able to match their then-18-year-old record last season thanks in part to the addition of the occasional sprint events on the world cup circuit. Last season’s medal breakdown included five medals in the men’s races, two in men’s sprint, one in women’s, two in women’s sprint and three in the team relay.
So far, this season’s record includes four men’s medals, seven women’s medals, three women’s sprint medals and one team relay medal. With five more world cups remaining this season (which resumes Jan. 9 in Sigulda, Latvia), Team USA has a strong chance to far surpass its record.
Here’s a look at USA Luge’s unprecedented season to date…
Innsbruck, Austria; Nov. 28-29
While the U.S. failed to medal at the season-opening world cup event, the team saw hints at its record-breaking results that were to come, highlighted by fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place results from Britcher, Emily Sweeney and Erin Hamlin, who became the first American to win an Olympic medal in singles luge when she took bronze in 2014. Tucker West and Mazdzer finished seventh and eighth in the men’s race, and doubles team Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman were eighth.
Lake Placid, New York; Dec. 4-5
When the circuit moved to Lake Placid for the first of three North American world cups, all eyes were on Team USA. The men got the ball rolling when Mazdzer and West won gold and silver on their home track. It marked Mazdzer’s first-ever world cup win, as well as the first time U.S. men finished first and second at a world cup. The next day, the U.S. women swept the podium, with Hamlin earning her first world cup win (to go with her sprint win from last season) and Britcher and Sweeney taking their first world cup medals. It was the first time the U.S. swept the podium in singles luge. Later that day, Hamlin and Mazdzer joined doubles team Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk to earn team relay gold, the first win for Team USA in the history of the event. Hamlin and Mazdzer both earned the world cup leader bibs for the first time in their careers.
Park City, Utah; Dec. 11-12
The Park City world cup started with a bang as Britcher claimed her first-ever gold medal in the women’s race, as teammate Hamlin finished just behind her for her second-ever world cup silver medal (the first came last season in Lake Placid). One day later, Mazdzer proved his Lake Placid win was not a fluke as he collected another gold medal in the men’s race. Meanwhile, Britcher and Hamlin repeated their one-two performance in the women’s sprint race, which helped Britcher steal the leader’s bib from Hamlin.
Calgary, Alberta; Dec. 18-19
Moving to a track outside the U.S. held some unknowns for the dominant Americans, but any worries quickly dissipated when Hamlin and Britcher again found themselves on the podium, this time taking silver and bronze, which gave Hamlin back the leader’s bib. Mazdzer also continued his consistent podium appearances with a silver medal the next day, followed by Britcher’s second sprint win, causing Hamlin to place the women’s leader’s bib back on Britcher.
Heading into the second half of the season, Britcher and Hamlin occupy the first two spots on the women’s rankings (with Sweeney in fifth), while Mazdzer and West are second and fifth for the men, Mortensen and Terdiman are fifth in doubles, and Team USA is second on the team relay standings.