Tucker West Wins in Lake Placid, First U.S. Male victory since 1997

Dec. 05, 2014, 6:36 p.m. (ET)

Above: Tucker West speeds toward victory. AP photo

Above: The men's podium

Above: Aidan Kelly smiles after his best-ever result, 7th place.

Above: The doubles podium. Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman are to the far left.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Tucker West was a member of the United States luge team that won a gold medal in the 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Igls, Austria.

Subsequently, the world knew West of Ridgefield, Conn. as a talented youngster who was the youngest U.S. singles racer to qualify for an Olympic team when he raced in Sochi. The 18 year old became known for the legendary backyard luge track that his father, Brett, built for him after the 2006 Winter Games to feed Tucker’s luge jones.

But now, the tall youngster is known for being a World Cup winner, after he hammered the field Friday on his home track in Lake Placid. West put down not only the two fastest times of the day, but he lowered the track record on each occasion, en route to a 0.77 victory over another rising star, Wolfgang Kindl, of Austria.

It was the first American men’s singles victory since Wendel Suckow’s pre-Olympic World Cup triumph in February 1997. West is also the youngest World Cup singles winner in team history.

“It’s been a frustrating month,” said West, who failed to make the Nations Cup cut last week in Igls, Austria. “I haven’t had a clean run in any training session. So to have this is a huge confidence boost and hopefully the tide is turning.

“I felt good on my home track. I had my parents and family and friends watching. It came together and the stars aligned.”

Dominik Fischnaller of Italy was third, over a second behind West, with Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., an agonizing 0.02 of a second from his third career World Cup podium, in fourth place.

“It’s totally frustrating,” stated Mazdzer. “I wasn’t able to get totally comfortable today. The training went well. It’s probably the most disappointing fourth place result I’ll ever have in my career because the runs were not good. I should have been much better than that. I’m kind of disappointed with myself for not being able to be comfortable on the sled today.”

Defending two-time Olympic champion and current World Cup leader Felix Loch of Germany was sixth, 1.2 seconds behind West. Loch won his first World Championship here in 2009 at the age of 18, but his recent Lake Placid history only shows a withdrawal in 2013 and today’s result.

West’s first heat took down the Mount Van Hoevenberg course mark by 0.4 of a second on a cold Adirondack morning. This came despite hitting the wall at curve three in the opening leg. He dropped it another 0.11 of a second in the final heat.

“Turn three has been a problem for me all through training and all through my career,” said West. “But I knew it was a minimal hit so I could make up time at the bottom. I drove the bottom as good as I can so I was able to make up time.”

West’s heat times of 51.115 and 51.002 seconds totaled 1 minute, 42.117 seconds. Kindl, who won the World Junior Championship on this track in 2008, was next in 1:42.890. Fischnaller, the Lillehammer World Cup winner last year, collected the bronze in 1:43.181. Mazdzer was next in
1:43.205.

As solid as their performances were, the story of the day did not end there as 2014 Olympian Aidan Kelly turned in a career-topping effort by finishing seventh in 1:43.349. Kelly, of West Islip, N.Y., rallied with the fifth best final leg in his first World Cup in Lake Placid.

The timing of the U.S. performances had other significance locally as West, Mazdzer and Kelly are National Sports Academy graduates. They are among the 23 student/athlete Olympians the private school has produced. However, the Lake Placid-based institution is trying to emerge from financial issues that threaten its very existence.

Riley Stohr of Whitehall, Mich. officially a junior, made his World Cup debut in 11th place in 1:43.659. Stohr, the fifth starter of the day, had a first run that was good enough to hold the lead for approximately half the field.

The West story came after a successful doubles event by two U.S. teams that scored sixth and 13th place results on a day that saw Germany grab gold and silver medals. The new team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman is inching its’ way to the podium with their second top 10 in as many weeks.

Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken claimed gold for the second straight World Cup event, easily defeating teammates and defending Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt by over a third of a second. The runners-up were out of the medals a week ago, a perplexing start to the season for the dominant doubles sled on the circuit last winter.

Eggert and Benecken had a total time of 1:27.651, with Wendl and Arlt second in 1:28.011. Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler slid to the bronze in 1:28.131.

Sochi Olympians Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Terdiman of Berwick, Pa., who competed at the Games with different partners, posted the fourth fastest final heat to land in sixth place in 1:28.247.

Two more U.S. juniors, Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Tristan Jeskanen of Peru, N.Y., medalists at the 2013 Junior World Championships, were 13th in their first World Cup race, recording a time of 1:29.189.

“We need more runs together,” said Mortensen. “We’re working on our sliding ability and working on our start. The start is key in every race. The faster the start, the better the results. We’re both hard workers. So hopefully in the next few years we can get our start in the top five.”

The more we race together the more confidence we’ll build,” added Terdiman. “The better our sliding will be, the faster we’ll go. So who knows….maybe we’ll shock the world in one of these races here.”

Terdiman’s comment was prescient, as it came about two hours before West’s shocking gold medal. But then again, Terdiman will get another chance in Saturday afternoon’s team relay that will also include West.

The women’s World Cup singles race, Saturday at 9:30 AM ET, will also determine the final member of the U.S. team relay unit.

Follow all the action with live timing and scoring at www.fil-luge.org.

AP Photo of Tucker West action: 940253520312

Results: 

Men's Singles 

Doubles