Summer Britscher, Tucker West, Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman react after the team relay competition during the 50th FIL Luge World Championships 2021 on Jan. 31, 2021 in Koenigssee, Germany.
The FIL Luge World Cup is just past its halfway point this season, and USA Luge sliders have yet to celebrate as many podium finishes as they have had in recent seasons. Most of the athletes are still striving to meet USA Luge’s 2022 Olympic qualification criteria.
Despite many challenges, the program is far from a downward slide. Two-time Olympian Summer Britcher won a silver medal in the sprint race in Sochi, Russia, in early December.
And in the first team relay this season — held on the 2022 Olympic track — Ashley Farquharson, Tucker West, and the doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman won a silver medal. It was Farquharson’s first world cup medal (in only her second full season on the senior world cup tour).
It’s a sign of better days to come — in both world cup racing and at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. The team relay is a particular focus this year.
Here’s a glimpse of USA Luge’s season to date.
First, The Bad News …
As two-time Olympian Tucker West said in a Zoom press conference this week, “there’s no lack of challenges [for the team] this year.
Some highlights, or rather, lowlights: Mazdzer broke his foot in training in late September. The 2018 Olympic silver medalist is the only man competing on the world cup in both singles and doubles this season, plus the team relay. But so far this season, he and Terdiman have had fewer than 50 runs together on the doubles sled, and his best singles finish to date is 17th.
“We're working every day,” said Mazdzer. “It's a constant process of just trying to get a little bit better. There's no time off. It’s just go go go.”
Then heading to a two-week training session on the 2022 Olympic track in November, two-time Olympian Summer Britcher was isolated after a false positive Covid-19 test taken at the Beijing airport shortly after she landed. She was hustled off to an isolation facility.
“I thought right then in that moment, okay, my Olympics are essentially over, I'm not going to get a chance to train here at all,” said Britcher.
She was able to finally train on the Olympic track, then race there at the season’s first world cup. But the whole process sent her reeling. She is still trying to regain her mental footing — and qualify for her third Olympic team. She scored a silver medal in the Sochi World Cup sprint in early December. But her best singles results to date are a string of 10th-place finishes.
Then after that world cup on the Olympic track, 30 sleds were held in Chinese customs, meaning several USA sliders, including Olympic hopeful Jonny Gustafson, were without their equipment for the next world cup races. They slid on borrowed sleds from other countries — like driving someone else’s Formula 1 car.
And the American men have had issues with the equipment that they have had.
“Clean runs and fast starts get us pretty much 20th place at this point,” said West. “We're throwing Hail Marys left and right trying to figure out how to fix that.”