Above: Chris Mazdzer wins in Lake Placid!
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – After seven top 10 results in last week’s Viessmann World Cup opener, the United States Luge Team jump-started its season Friday in Lake Placid when Chris Mazdzer won his first career men’s singles race. Tucker West was right behind him for the silver medal.
It’s the first time in USA Luge history that its’ singles racers finished gold-silver in a Viessmann World Cup event. Three American doubles teams swept the World Cup podium in Lillehammer, Norway in December 1996.
Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y. took eighth for his second best Viessmann World Cup finish. Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah wound up 11th.
Three U.S. doubles teams were led by Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk in sixth place. Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman were seventh, victimized by a problem with the pull strap in the start of the first run. Jake Hyrns with Anthony Espinosa finished 11th.
“This feels awesome to do it on your home track,” said Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., who also captured a gold medal last season in the one-heat World Cup sprint event. “The track sped up for the race runs. All the training we had here at the beginning of the year, the thousands of runs we’ve taken. It finally paid off by having that experience and making it down both runs.”
Above: Tucker West en route to a silver medal in Lake Placid. 12/4/15
West, of Ridgefield, Conn., captured this race last December, and has been part of what’s now become a potent 1-2 combination.
“This is my home track. We’ve always been pretty fast here,” said West. “Chris and I both showed up. There were a few hiccups on the run, but overall I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I’m super excited about where we ended up with two Americans on the podium. That’s huge for America.”
At the intermission, the Union College student sat in third place, trailing first run leader Felix Loch of Germany, with Mazdzer in between. Just 0.18 of a second separated the top five sleds.
Both U.S. athletes delivered fast second heats, with Mazdzer in the lead, followed by his teammate. They forced Loch, the double Olympic champion and the final athlete of the day, to race clean to the finish. Loch, the 2009 World Champion on this track, was also trying to wipe away the residue of last Sunday’s disqualification, the result of an overweight sled as he held the midway lead.
After spending a week here last month getting extra time on Lake Placid’s serpentine track, Loch was on the verge of delivering on his 0.12 of a second advantage. But this track mandates complete focus to the end, and Loch did not execute the curve 15-16 section known as the Chicane, a slight change of direction in an otherwise straight section of the Mount Van Hoevenberg track.
Loch hit the right wall, the contact nearly sending him sideways and dropping him to sixth place, same as a year ago.
Mazdzer’s reaction as he stood in the leader’s box was one of disbelief, as the realization set in that he was a Viessmann World Cup singles race winner.
“I was kind of shocked. He’s been so solid,” said the two-time Olympian of Loch. “The problem here is it’s not over until the very end and that Chicane can bite you. When he hit the wall, he hit it really hard. So I knew he lost enough time for me to win. You never want to see people do that, but on your home track you want to win so badly.”
“This is where you train. This is where you live four to five months out of the year, at this facility. And to have it finally pay off is just incredible.”
As he continued speaking to the media, Mazdzer was handed his second prize - the bib of the overall World Cup leader.
“Wow. They handed me the World Cup leader bib. I’m the World Cup leader,” he exclaimed. “First time in my career.” Given the issues Loch, the defending World Cup overall champion, has had over the first two weeks of the season and the lost World Cup points therein, the chase for the crystal may be more competitive this season.
Mazdzer’s runs of 51.400 and 51.408 seconds totaled 1 minute, 42.808 seconds. West’s silver medal clocking was 1:42.841. The bronze medal went to Austrian Wolfgang Kindl in 1:42.848. The resident of Vill won the 2008 Junior World Championship in Lake Placid, raced to a World Cup silver medal here a year ago, and a bronze medal a week ago on his home track.
The doubles race went to Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken for the second straight week. They mastered the Olympic Sports Complex track with a pair of heats that accrued 1:27.583 (43.781-43.802), and are now the early season World Cup overall leaders.
Sochi Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were just 0.01 behind at the break, but the second half of their final heat was ragged at best, and they fell back to eighth.
Above: Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk, 12/4/15, Lake Placid, NY
The 19 year old Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and his 23 year old teammate, Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., have been the surprise doubles team of the young season. Prior to Saturday, the twosome has won gold and bronze medals in Nations Cup qualifying.
This was just the third World Cup start for Krewson, only two of them with Sherk in their debut season. They were timed in 1:28.502.
“I have always had a problem with the upper part of this track in the Devil’s Highway,” said Krewson. “There’s a lot of time up there. It’s a flatter part of the track and you really have to be precise with your lines.
“We’re working really great as a team. That’s 90 percent of the game, having a really good teammate to work with.”
Surprisingly for a unit so new and young, their starts have been an impressive part of their sliding. “The reason we have good starts is that we’re both really explosive,” added Sherk. “Justin has long arms so he can get a lot more contact with the ice, which helps a lot. Now it’s all about consistency. That can make or break a team. Once we dial down the consistency it’ll be great.”
Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. took seventh in 1:28.532. They took comfort in their fourth best time in the final run, and could have potentially posted a top five result without the opening run equipment issue.
Peter Penz and Georg Fischler grabbed the silver medal in 1:27.965. The Latvian Sics brothers, Andris and Juris, winners of three Olympic medals including the team relay, slid to the bronze in 1:28.107.
Race action in Lake Placid concludes with the women’s singles race commencing at 10:40 AM ET, followed by the Viessmann team relay presented by BMW at 2 PM ET.
The races will be live streamed by the FIL via the USA Luge web portal at www.usaluge.org.
NBC Sports Network will air these competitions Thursday, December 10, from 7-9 PM ET.
Above: audio interviews with Tucker West and Chris Mazdzer