Above: Chris Mazdzer en route to winning a silver medal for the second consecutive World Cup weekend
Above, L to R: Chris Mazdzer, Armin Zoeggeler and Wolfgang Kindl
Above: The 2010 Olympic Team nominees. Top left to right: Jayson Terdiman, Preston Griffall, Tucker West, Christian Niccum, Summer Britcher. Bottom left to right: Aidan Kelly, Chris Mazdzer, Erin Hamlin, Kate Hansen, Matt Mortensen
Above: Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall hit the pad to stop the clock during the team relay event in Pak City
Above: Team USA, Team Germany and Team Austria.Above: Brad Johnson, VP of abrasives at St-Gobain, addresses the audience and members of the press on December 14 during the USA Luge Olympic Team Nominee Celebration
PARK CITY, Utah – On the final day of the World Cup stop in Park City, Utah on Saturday, USA Luge gave the rest of the world something to contemplate in the six weeks leading up to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
A pair of World Cup silvers – in men’s singles and the team relay – adds them to the list of medal contenders that will go to Russia in February.
Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y., had the three runs of his life en route to the men’s silver. He then teamed with Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and two-time Olympian Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City, to take their second team relay silver medal of the year.
“I’ve always liked being the underdog,” said Mazdzer, now a two-time Olympian. “Just having a goal you’re trying to achieve. When you’re out in front it’s easy to get complacent. But I like having some fuel in the fire, going after the top guy. On the handles, I could feel the adrenaline pumping.”
That top guy he chased was too far ahead for anyone to catch. Nearly 12 years after winning his first Olympic gold medal, Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler made it look easy, finishing with the two fastest heats of the day, and totaling 1 minute, 30.599 seconds down the 2002 Olympic track.
Zoeggeler, who will carry the Italian flag at the Sochi Opening Ceremony, won by 0.24 of a second ahead of Mazdzer. The American posted 1:30.839 and had a second heat that was just .002 behind the legendary winner.
Wolfgang Kindl of Austria, grabbed his first career World Cup medal with a third place time of 1:30.923. Similar to Mazdzer, Kindl came back in the team relay and helped his team to the bronze medal behind Germany, which set a Park City relay record, and the United States.
Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn., was 16th in the singles race in 1:31.735, but satisfied Olympic team criteria earlier in the season and, at 18, became the youngest male to be named to the U.S. Olympic luge team.
Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y., and Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah were locked in a battle for the final Sochi singles berth that could have ended in a tiebreaker. Kelly opened the door for Morris with a first run crash that took him out of the race. Morris, needing a top 15 performance, could not capitalize, finishing 20th.
Mazdzer’s second consecutive runner-up finish brings him to fifth place in the overall World Cup standings. Felix Loch of Germany, fifth Saturday, still leads the season-long rankings with 385 points.
In the World Cup team relay standings, the U.S. has worked its way into second place behind Germany. On the strength of two silver medals and a pair of fourth places, the Americans have 290 World Cup points. The Germans, with three victories, lead with 339 points. Italy is third at 380.
Later Saturday night, at a gala event at the Utah Olympic Park museum, USA Luge hosted the official nomination of the 2014 Olympic Team, pending USOC approval.
Its 10 members are:
--Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. (men’s singles)
--Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. (men’s singles)
--Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y. (men’s singles)
--Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y. (women’s singles)
--Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif. (women’s singles)
--Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. (women’s singles)
--Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City (doubles)
--Christian Niccum of Woodinville, Wash. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. (doubles)