With nine Olympic Games and 26 world championships lived between them, lugers Summer Britcher, Tucker West, and the doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman combined to win a bronze medal in the team relay Sunday as the world championships came to an end in Sochi, Russia.
It was a moment of glory for two-time Olympian Britcher, whose 2020 season has included five world cup podium finishes, including bronze earlier this month in Oberhof, Germany, a spot where a U.S. woman hadn’t medaled since 1996, followed by a team silver with the same crew as on Sunday. But up to today, the 2020 world championships had been disappointing: Britcher, a medal hopeful in women’s luge, ended up seventh in both singles and sprint, while West’s 14th place was the best result for the U.S. men.
Even worse, what began as an excellent run by Mazdzer and Terdiman in men’s doubles on Saturday ended in disqualification before they had even completed the course due to their sled’s steel running surfaces being warmer than allowed.
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But bitter turned to sweet Sunday afternoon in Sochi after a phenomenal run put Team USA at the top of the leaderboard early in the team relay. Their time of 2 minutes, 44:577 seconds held up as one team after another crossed the finish line. Only Germany, helmed by a handful of world and Olympic medalists, and Latvia were able to do better. Germany won by .321 seconds, while second through fourth were separated by just .073.
The defending champion Russian sled, the last team standing between the U.S. and a medal, was aiming for the country’s sixth world title of the weekend, out of a possible seven. However, the Russians were disqualified when this week's women's singles and sprint world champ Ekaterina Katnikova missed the paddle on the transition, leaving the U.S. holding bronze. It marked the first U.S. medal in the team relay since finishing second in 2017, with West and Terdiman both taking part. The team relay has been an Olympic event since 2014; Team USA finished fourth in 2018.
Despite all of their international experience — each member of the U.S. team is a two- or three-time Olympian, with Britcher and West having now competed in five world championships and Mazdzer and Terdiman having eight — today’s result marked the first world championships medal for Britcher and Mazdzer, and the second for West and Terdiman, following the 2017 relay.
However, Mazdzer won a historic Olympic silver medal in 2018 — the first medal for a U.S. man in singles luge — while Britcher and West were part of the U.S. relay team that won a Youth Olympic Games gold medal in 2012 in Innsbruck, Austria.
Sochi’s Krasnaya Polyana luge track already boasts a special place in U.S. luge history as the site of Erin Hamlin’s 2014 Olympic bronze medal run, the first by an American woman in the sport. After Sunday, it will be remembered for a second bronze-medal performance as well.
Blythe Lawrence has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.