Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman complete their run in doubles luge at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 14, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk were on cloud nine Wednesday night after placing eighth in doubles luge.
The first-time Olympians’ two clean runs of 46.310 and 46.342 seconds earned them a combined time of 1:32.652. They finished .955 seconds behind Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Todias Arlt, who won gold with a time of 1:31.697.
Austria’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler earned a silver medal with their time of 1:31.785. Germany also secured the bronze medal with Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken’s time of 1:31.987.
“It went great,” Sherk said. “It couldn’t really have gone any better for us.”
“Best day of work ever!” added Krewson.
Unlike singles events, doubles athletes have to rely completely on one another to make it down the track safely, while also being competitive. Trust and chemistry can make or break a partnership.
Despite flying down the course at speeds upwards of 80-90 mph, each person can feel every little movement the other makes on the sled. If one of them makes a wrong move, it can ruin a run at best and end in injury at worst.
“With driving styles, if those things don’t line up, then it’s really difficult for the sled to get down the track,” Krewson said. “Things don’t respond correctly. It doesn’t balance right.”
Even though the two have only been sliding together for three years, which is nothing compared to some other teams, Sherk says they lucked out with one another.
“First day, the chemistry was just there,” he said. “There were no issues. Some people, when they get combined as teammates, they’re just not compatible. But it seemed to work really well for us.”
Matt Mortensen, a two-time Olympian and 10th-place finish in PyeongChang with partner Jayson Terdiman, is also no stranger to teamwork, both on and off the ice. Mortensen serves as a sergeant in the Army World Class Athlete Program, which allows roughly 80 athletes to compete in elite level sports while simultaneously serving in the military.
Having just missed out on competing in the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010, he realized the need to invest in something that would support him in the event his luge career ever stopped.
“Honestly, without [the Army World Class Athlete Program], I wouldn’t be here,” he said “I definitely needed all the support that they’ve been able to provide to allow me to keep up with all my responsibilities as an elite level athlete and as a soldier.”
Those two careers combine to add a layer of pride and patriotism to his experience at the Games that few other athletes get to experience, and it makes Mortensen's team that much bigger, with his fellow soldiers motivating him to represent them well as a member of Team USA.
“I can’t think of a more honorable position to be in and to represent my country as both a soldier and as an athlete for Team USA,” he said. “I hope that other soldiers know that I have them in my mind as I’m [competing] and that I’m not only an extension of Team USA, but I’m an extension of them.”
There's one more spot for one of those teams to put into practice the lessons they've learned over the years, as the luge events wrap up on Thursday with the team relay. It is now up to the coaches’ discretion on which doubles team they will choose to compete in that relay given that Krewson/Sherk had the higher finish and Mortensen/Terdiman had the single fastest race.
Cat Hendrick is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.