IGLS, Austria – Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin really doesn’t know what to make of the International Luge Federation’s new sprint World Cup, but she does know how to compete and used a consistent run Sunday to finish seventh in the inaugural event in Igls, Austria.
Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman of the United States sprinted to a 10th place doubles result.
The competition, for only the top 15 in the current World Cup standings, uses the normal start elevation for each discipline, but the timing does not begin until 100 meters (330 feet) down the course.
“This doesn’t do anything different other than shorten the run, and on a track like here, which is only 30 seconds, it’s not going to change too much,” said Hamlin.
The event came 24 hours after the World Cup women’s singles race. Germany’s Olympic champion, Natalie Geisenberger, raced to victory by “sprinting” in 31.396 seconds. The sprint event closely resembled Saturday’s race with Germans occupying the top four places.
Tatyana Huefner, Olympic gold and silver medalist, was second in 31.502, with Anke Wischnewski third in 31.504.
Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., fifth in Saturday’s singles race, registered a time of 31.706. Teammates Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. placed 12th in 31.852; Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine was 13th in 31.877; Sochi Olympian Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. took 14th in 32.982.
“My run was OK,” continued Hamlin, who earlier this fall won the pre-season Lillehammer Cup before notching her sixth Norton National Championship. “It was decent. It was no worse than the second run (Saturday). So I’m happy with it.
“The weather was still pretty warm. With only 15 in the race it may not have been as huge of a factor. But, still, the soft ice is less ideal for certain people.”
Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Terdiman of Berwick, Pa., a team just put together last spring after they competed in Sochi with different sled mates, finished three-tenths of a second behind repeat winners Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany, who also took gold in Saturday’s doubles event. The Germans posted a time of 31.396. The U.S. duo was timed in 31.712.
The sprint race really depends on your speed at the top of the track in order to do well at the bottom,” said Mortensen. “Jayson and I didn't do the start curve that well, so that affected our finish time. As for the race itself, it’s a lot less exciting for the athlete and probably the viewer because there are no start gates and the time begins farther down the track.
"Also, the race counts for full World Cup points. Since only the top15 from each race get to participate, it puts all of the other athletes at an immediate disadvantage. It will create a large gap in the overall points between those that get to participate in the sprint Cup and those that do not. Those that are not in the sprint Cup have in essence, missed a World Cup. If anything the race should be for half World Cup points to create a fairer atmosphere for all of the athletes.”
Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria took the silver medal in 31.484, with Germany’s 2014 Olympic champions in doubles and the team relay, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, third in 31.539.
Felix Loch of Germany, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist, let it be known Sunday that the 2014-2015 World Cup luge season will be more of the same. And Loch, also the reigning three-time World Cup overall champion, used the 1964 and 1976 Olympic site to drive home that point as he put down the two fastest runs of the day en route to a World Cup gold medal in singles. It was the winner’s fifth consecutive victory at Igls. Loch backed up his claim by returning in the afternoon and securing the victory in the sprint.
The two Americans in the singles field, Olympians Chris Mazdzer and Aidan Kelly, were 18th and 24th, respectively. Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. did not qualify in Thursday’s Nations Cup race.
On another warm Tyrolean day with temperatures in the low 40s, Loch, built more like a strong safety or a small forward, was timed in 50.182 and 50.246 seconds for a total of 1 minute, 40.428 seconds. He was 0.13 of a second ahead of rising Italian star Dominik Fischnaller. The 2013 Junior World Champion and 2014 Olympian clocked 1:40.565. Fischnaller was second fastest in each individual run. Loch’s teammate, Andi Langenhan, collected the bronze medal in 1:40.629.
Above: Chris Mazdzer (AP Photo)
Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. was 0.9 seconds behind Loch. The 2010 and 2014 Olympian, 25th at the midpoint of the race, posted a total time of 1:41.334. The six-time Norton National Champion’s second heat time put him in the top 15 for the run enabling him to gain seven spots on the leaderboard, but not enough to advance to the sprint World Cup.
Above: Aidan Kelly (AP Photo)
Kelly, a member of the Sochi Olympic team, had top 10 start times in both runs, the result of extensive off-season training. But he gave the advantage back on each trip down the Igls track. The West Islip, N.Y. racer posted 1:41.653.
Loch’s winning time in the sprint was 33.298. Fischnaller trailed closely with 33.339. Kevin Fischnaller, Dominik’s cousin, picked up the bronze medal in 33.429.
The World Cup tour is now scurrying to get to Lake Placid for the resumption of racing Friday and Saturday (Dec. 5-6). After Monday’s long flights, the teams will need to rid themselves of jet lag quickly as training runs start on Tuesday.
The first on-ice session for USA Luge is Tuesday from 11 AM – 1 PM. Subsequent training runs are set for Wednesday and Thursday. Nations Cup qualifying begins at 6 PM Eastern Time Thursday, while race action at Mount Van Hoevenberg is scheduled to begin Friday and Saturday mornings at 9:55 and 9:30, respectively.