CALGARY, Alberta – Chris Mazdzer’s second and final heat in Saturday’s World Cup singles race confirmed it: 2015-2016 will go down as the best World Cup season in the history of USA Luge.
Above: Chris Mazdzer
Mazdzer, a two-time Olympian, nailed down the silver medal behind Germany’s Felix Loch on the 1988 Olympic track in Calgary. That gave the American federation 14 World Cup medals, exceeding the total of 13 in 1996-97 and 2014-2015. The Saranac Lake, N.Y. luge racer has accumulated two World Cup singles gold medals, a team relay gold medal and a singles silver medal on the season. He’s second in the overall World Cup with 405 points.
“This is by far the best I’ve ever done in my career,” said Mazdzer, who prepared for these races as he was finishing up his business degree this week from U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor DeVry University. “It shows how good North America has been to the American sliders.
Above: Chris Mazdzer, Felix Loch and Wolfgang Kindl
“This is the first test. Even though we’re in North America, we don’t have a lot of training here in Calgary. So to do this well, shows that we can keep the momentum moving. Although we’re going to go to German tracks where the Germans are expected to do even better, I still think we can keep the momentum going.”
Later, on a sunny but cold afternoon at Canada Olympic Park, Summer Britcher garnered the team’s 15th medal with a victory in the sprint cup. The gold medal continued the World Cup leader’s brilliant run of podium performances over the past three weeks in North America. The 2014 Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa. has taken three gold medals and two bronze in her last five starts.
“My run today was a lot better than my runs yesterday,” said the 21 year old. “The ice was a little bit softer. We raced in the middle of the day instead of at night time. So that helped to be a little more comfortable on the sled and to be able to be smooth. And I had a pretty good run so that makes me pretty happy.
“I think that last year I was close to the podium a few times. I was on that edge of doing really well and being okay and making mistakes. After getting on the podium in Lake Placid it gave me the confidence to slide a little more relaxed, and gave me the ability to bridge that gap.”
Britcher will take the World Cup leader’s bib home for the holidays with 495 overall points, having created some separation between herself and teammate Erin Hamlin, who sits in second place with 431 points. Two U.S. singles racers have never occupied the top two spots in the World Cup standings.
“It’s pretty exciting to be going into Christmas break as the World Cup leader,” continued Britcher. “Erin and I have been switching back and forth and I know she’ll be coming after me as soon as we get back to racing in January.”
For a while during her sprint run, Hamlin, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion, was moving faster than Britcher in the “flying start” concept of the event in which sliders get a 100 meter run before the timing begins.
The Remsen, N.Y. racer had the fastest first interval time, but encountered problems in Calgary’s Kriesel (circle) turn, nearly met the roof of curve 12 and fell to 14th place.
Britcher clocked 31.129 seconds, to edge Dajana Eitberger of Germany by only 0.003 of a second. Tatiana Ivanova of Russia took the bronze medal, 0.05 of a second from Britcher.
Above: Emily Sweeney
Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. placed fifth in 31.275. Hamlin’s time was 31.732.
After four of nine World Cup competitions, Sweeney is fifth at 330 points. The American singles teams have also never had three in the top five of the tour standings.
Raychel Germaine of Roswell, Ga. did not qualify for the sprint race. The graduating junior has, nevertheless, made people stand up and take notice of her 12th place overall ranking.
Felix Loch of Germany won his first race of the season after threatening twice earlier in the campaign.
No one could recall the last time the two-time Olympic gold medal winner and four-time World Champion went four weeks without a victory. At this former Olympic site, he won twice in a matter of hours, first dominating the singles and then cruising to a 0.188 of a second title in the sprint.
In the singles event, Loch had the two best times of the race, for a combined 1:30.304. Mazdzer was 0.3 of a second behind Loch in 1:30.628. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria was the bronze medalist with a time of 1:30.673.
Above: Tucker West
Sochi Olympian Tucker West was on the cusp of his second podium result of the winter with a fourth place opening leg. But the 20 year old from Ridgefield, Conn. drifted back to seventh place in 1:30.814.
Above: Taylor Morris. Below: Aidan Kelly
Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y. finished 15th in 1:31.217. Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah took 19th in 1:31.377.
West and Kelly were 12th and 15th, respectively, in the FIL’s latest addition to the World Cup circuit.
Roman Repilov of Russia was the surprising silver medal winner in the sprint cup, with World Cup leader Wolfgang Kindl of Austria getting the bronze. Kindl has medaled in all five individual races this winter, including his maiden gold medal, and has a tour-leading 465 World Cup points.
Loch’s two triumphs lift him to third place on the season with 390 points.
His teammates have owned doubles racing for years, and today was no exception as Sochi Olympic gold medal winners Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt defeated Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, also of Germany, and Austria’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler. The latter two teams were edged by just 0.006 of a second in tying for the runner-up spot.
Eggert and Benecken continue to hold first place with 540 points, ahead of Penz and Fischler, with Wendl and Arlt third.
Above: Jayson Terdiman (left) and Matt Mortensen
Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. took seventh and remain in fifth place in the World Cup season race.
Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington wound up 13th and reside in 12th place overall.
The World Cup tour now takes its annual holiday break, returning to action January 9-10 in Sigulda, Latvia, starting a run of nearly two months of European racing.
After the New Year, there will be five more World Cup events – Sigulda, three in Germany and the season finale in Sochi. The World Championships in late January, airing on NBC Sports Network, will be on another German track, the iconic Bavarian layout in Koenigssee.
The Calgary races will also air on NBC Sports Network on December 27 from 4-5 PM EST.
Live streaming will continue for the duration of the campaign, with the remainder of the schedule to be broadcast via the FIL’s website (www.fil-luge.org).