LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- It took a track-record time by Germany’s Julia Taubitz Saturday to knock Emily Sweeney out of the gold-medal position at the luge world cup in Lake Placid, part of the Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.
Taubitz delivered the drama and quieted the raucous American home crowd at Mount Van Hoevenberg with her performance in the final run. Moments after Sweeney, originally from Connecticut and now a resident of Lake Placid, had set the record of 43.688 seconds, Taubitz answered the challenge and eclipsed that mark by three-hundredths of a second with a time of 43.658 seconds. Taubitz, 23, had the fastest times in both heats and her combined time of 1:27.484 edged Sweeney by .067. Viktoriia Demchenko of Russia was third.
Sweeney, the top qualifier in the Nation’s Cup on Friday, was second-fastest in both of the world cup heats. She kept smiling as she talked about her short-lived track record.
“I had it for a little bit,” she said, laughing. “Not long enough.”
Sweeney has made countless runs at Mount Van Hoevenberg since taking up the sport as a 10-year-old and said she thought that the a track record might be attainable on the cold, sunny afternoon high in the Adirondack Mountains.
“It was definitely on my mind,” she said. “With the run times in the first run, I didn’t think it was possible today. But they kept saying, ‘The track is speeding up.’ And I thought, ‘You know what? Maybe. The conditions are perfect for it.’ It’s definitely a personal best for me. That’s what I have to focus on and walk away with. Not that I had it and lost it. I need to just be happy with the progress that I’m making.”
At 26, Sweeney is a 10-year veteran of the national team. She suffered serious neck and back injuries from a crash at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, which caused her to miss a few races throughout last season. Still, her campaign ended on a high note with a bronze medal at the world championships.
Saturday’s world cup silver medal was Sweeney’s best international result in a singles race in three years since winning silver at Park City, Utah.
Summer Britcher followed her silver-medal performance last weekend at the world cup season opener in Innsbruck, Austria with a fourth-place finish in Lake Placid. Ashley Farquharson, a rookie on the world cup circuit at age 20, was ninth.
Britcher, 25, said she was not satisfied with how she slid Saturday.
“I try to base my happiness on how I actually perform, not based on my results, because you can never control how other people are sliding,” she said. “I had two runs with some pretty big mistakes in them. Even though fourth place is a good spot to be in, I’m pretty unhappy with myself and the way I performed.”
Team USA’s lone doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman crashed during their second run after turning in the sixth-fastest time in the first heat. Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist in men’s singles, is the only athlete competing in singles and doubles on the world cup this season.
Terdiman and Mazdzer were doubles teammates as juniors and resumed their partnership during the 2018-19 season that was shortened by Mazdzer’s injuries. They have been developing a new sled to use in the leadup to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. After finishing 17th in the season-opener last weekend, they opted to ride the old sled in Lake Placid.
“We’ve been trying to build this brand-new sled the past couple of weeks and it just hasn’t been working out,” said Mazdzer, 31. “Last night, Jayson brought out the old sled and was like, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘You know what, it’s crazy enough that it just might work.’”
A split-second later, Terdiman, 30, delivered the punch line.
“And it almost did,” he said. “We haven’t ridden that sled in almost two months, and it steers a lot differently than this new project sled we are working on. We knew we were taking a risk, but every run on the other sled was a risk, so why not? The first run was great. It kind of felt like home again.”
Terdiman and Mazdzer were sliding well at the top of the course in the second heat, but made a minor error in the curve entering the labyrinth section of the track.
“If we had done it worse we would have been OK,” Mazdzer said. “If we would have done it a little better we would have been OK. We just hit this magical launch pad at the beginning of curve 13 and it just flipped us up and in.”