By Brandon Penny | Dec. 18, 2016, 1:08 p.m. (ET)
Matt Mortensen (L) and Jayson Terdiman celebrate their bronze medal at the FIL Luge World Cup on Dec. 17, 2016 in Park City, Utah.


PARK CITY, Utah – Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman ended the first half of their world cup season the best way they knew how: with a medal.

After a fifth-place finish in the doubles luge race Friday, the American duo returned to the track Saturday to earn bronze in the doubles sprint race at the Park City World Cup, continuing an already breakthrough season.

In the sprint race, the top 15 finishers in the doubles race compete in a one-run format where the timing starts 100 meters down the track, putting less of an emphasis on a strong start and more on building speed throughout the track.

“It just kind of plays to our advantage a little bit,” said Mortensen, who competed at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games with Preston Griffall. “We don’t have the best start, this is a known fact; but we are very good sliders and we make up a lot of time down the track. So if you look at the actual time sheets after a race, you’ll see we have pretty high speeds and that’s because we’re using the pressure in the curves pretty well.

“So as long as we do that, we’re going to do well in the sprint; which plays into the nerves when you’re watching because you know it’s going to be so close every time. I think last year here, there was a six-thousandths split between four positions, so it’s an incredibly tight race all the time."

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Sliding 11th with seeding based on the previous day’s race, Mortensen and Terdiman waited anxiously in the leader’s box to see if their time would hold up. Russia’s Andrey Bogdanov and Andrey Medvedev raced next and were 46 thousandths of a second slower than the Americans, putting them in third for the time being. Then came Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, a German powerhouse with three world championship medals, who were one tenth faster than Mortensen/Terdiman and easily went into first.

Their fate would lie with Latvian brothers Andris and Juris Sics, two-time Olympic medalists.

“The most nerve-racking was watching the Latvian sled, the Sics brothers, because they are one point behind us in overall points, and they were actually ahead of not just us, but Eggert/Benecken coming down the first half of the track,” Terdiman said.

The Sics moved into sixth, .092 seconds behind the Americans. The Olympic champions, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were last to go and moved into second place in a time that was 42 thousandths faster than Mortensen and Terdiman, who secured the bronze.

“Seeing (the Sics) come up a few spots behind and giving us a cushion between us and them is awesome.”

The medal was the second for the U.S. team, which is in only its third season together. Both athletes competed at the 2014 Olympics – Mortensen with Griffall and Terdiman with Christian Niccum – and teamed up the following season.

Two weeks ago, they earned silver at their home track in Lake Placid, New York, ending a six-year medal drought for U.S. doubles lugers.

“I think this adds to confidence that we’re able to do it not just at home in Lake Placid,” Terdiman said. “Salt Lake is a home track for us, but we don’t get nearly as much training here as we do out in Lake Placid. Hopefully that confidence will, going into the second half of the season, allow us to do something even more special on a European track. I think that will be the biggest confidence builder for us and hopefully that will happen before world championships.”

Mortensen and Terdiman remain fourth in the season standings with a 25-point cushion between fifth place (the Sics) and only 13 points out from Germans Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm in third.

The luge world cup breaks for the holidays and resumes Jan. 5-6 in Koenigssee, Germany, with the world championships held Jan. 27-29 in Innsbruck, Austria.