LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Persistence pays off.
Matt Mortensen, competing in his 19th season, and Jayson Terdiman, who started sliding in 2000, won their first FIL World Cup medal together in doubles luge — a silver medal in the Lake Placid World Cup.
“Finally! Thank you!” thought Mortensen when he saw the “1” next to their name at the finish of their second run.
“We've had a four-year plan since we started sliding together back in 2014,” said Terdiman. “This year was about letting everything fly and getting on the podium. To do it in the second race of the year is a huge weight off our shoulders.”
The American duo’s two-run time of 1:28.545 was 0.163 seconds behind winners Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken — dubbed “Eggs Benedict” — from Germany, who finished in 1:28.382. But they stayed ahead of the young German team of Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm, who won their first world cup medal last weekend in Winterberg, Germany. The Germans claimed the bronze medal in 1:28.726.
This is the first doubles medal for USA Luge in six years. On Dec. 4, 2010, Terdiman was paired with Christian Niccum, and they won a bronze medal at the Winterberg World Cup.
“Eggs Benedict” has won every race on the world cup tour this year, and they won the 2015 Lake Placid World Cup as well.
Mortensen, 30, and Terdiman, 27, paired together right after the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in 2014. Since then, they have inched toward the top three in world cups. Mortensen elaborated on their four-year plan.
“The first year was about going around and learning the tracks together as a team,” he explained. “The second year was about consistency, getting a top-five overall, which we did. This year is about getting a medal. It was not about consistency. It was about going as fast as we can at every individual race and making sure we put ourselves in contention, then to see what’s too much and where we should draw back. It’s great to do this in the second world cup.”
Last weekend, in Winterberg, Germany, they finished sixth — and fourth in the sprint, tied for their best finish yet.
They were in contention to win a medal last February in the Sochi World Cup after finishing Run 1 in first place. But in the second run, they had a mishap in the final curve and ended up ninth.
“We got a little hyped up [after the first run] and really were going for it, which is something we don’t normally do,” said Terdiman. “We like to play things safe and ride the correct lines. That really bit us in the butt last year.”
They learned from that experience. In second place after the first run in Lake Placid, they maintained their composure. Rather than get excited between runs about their medal potential, it was business as usual. They went for a short walk, grabbed some food and did the same warmup that they always do.
Sliding on their home track also played to the veterans’ favor. In training runs earlier this week, Terdiman watched their opponents fighting the tricky Lake Placid track.
“I looked at Matt and said, ‘Dude, all we’re going to have to do is flow down this thing,’” said Terdiman. “This is home for us. We’ve both been sliding for over 15 years. This has been home for us the entire time.”
“The relief comes in just looking at the [start] handles and knowing this is a familiar place,” added Mortensen. “We’ve done this every time. As soon as you lay down and get in the track, calm just comes over you.”
Both sliders had family in the crowd, and earlier this week Mortensen was particularly happy to see his brother, who deployed to the Mideast as part of the U.S. Army’s 1156 Engineer Company. Mortensen is also in the 1156 Engineer and is a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. He competed at the 2014 Olympics, finishing 14th in doubles with Preston Griffall. Terdiman also competed in Sochi. He finished eighth paired with Niccum.
Griffall and Niccum retired after Sochi, and Mortensen and Terdiman decided to pair up. They started training a month after the Games.
Both men have won world cup medals in the relay. And Terdiman has a bronze medal from the 2010 Winterberg World Cup doubles race. But this was the first medal in doubles for Mortensen.
“It feels wonderful,” he said, with a look of relief.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.