SIGULDA, Latvia – On the final day of the luge World Championships in the Baltic region, USA Luge placed fifth Sunday in the team relay after Chris Mazdzer’s furious rally earlier brought him out of 13th place in singles to finish sixth in Sigulda, Latvia.
“It definitely made me feel good, but I was doing so well all week,” replayed Mazdzer. “In training I was keeping up with (winner Semen) Pavlichenko and (Dominik) Fischnaller and actually beating them in some runs.
“That first run….I’m not going to lie….it was pretty tough. I was really disappointed with myself. But I came back in the second run and had a fairly decent run, and climbed the ladder like crazy.”
Mid week weather conditions in the mid 30s turned significantly colder on Sunday with gusts of wind. The drop in temperature quickened the course, making it perhaps half-second faster than the training sessions, said Mazdzer. The capricious wind did not deter him as much as his first run itself did.
“I had really good training all week,” he continued. “It was nothing special I did. I had it in me the whole time. I should’ve been fighting for a medal. I had been doing that well in training, but I messed up in the first run. It’s not like I had to pull something together. I just had to be consistent with training, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to.”
Germany won the final medal count with five, including Sunday’s gold medal in the team relay and silver in men’s singles. However, their domination was mitigated on what is perceived to be a more neutral track in the luge world.
Russia, which used Sigulda as its home course for many years before the country built runs in Paramonova and Sochi, continued its excellent season by scoring three World Championship medals, led by Sunday’s sensational victory by Semen Pavlichenko over prohibitive favorite Felix Loch of Germany.
The winner had been pointing to this race all season, and in fact, skipped several World Cups as part of that preparation. He had the two best times of the day, 48.137 and 48.151 seconds, for a total time of 1 minute, 36.288 seconds. It was Russia’s first World Championship since 1981 when Sergei Danilin of the former Soviet Union won the gold medal in Sweden.
Loch, on the other hand, the two-time Olympic singles champion, was bidding for his fifth world title and needed help from Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller to get the silver medal.
Fischnaller stood just 0.02 behind leader Pavlichenko and was staring at a World Championship medal at the intermission. But the Italian crashed in the second half of his final run on Sigulda’s ever-changing, technical layout. He finished 13th overall and the medal he received was a bronze in the Under 23 World Championship.
Loch was timed in 1:36.359, while Wolfgang Kindl of Austria, who has been on the uptick for two years, rallied from sixth place to take the bronze medal in 1:36.472. Kindl’s team had two medals in the event. Italy (doubles) and Canada (team relay) had one medal each.
Mazdzer, the two-time Olympian from Saranac Lake, N.Y. who has six World Cup medals to his credit this winter, had a good getaway time in the first leg, but lost ground on the upper section of the track and found himself in 13th place at the break. But an even better start time in the second run, coupled with clean driving, gave him the fourth best final heat. His sixth place clocking was 1:36.800.
Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn. the Lake Placid World Cup winner who has tallied three World Cup medals on the campaign, did not get the rhythm in his first visit to Sigulda. The 2014 Olympian was 18th in 1:37.631. It was small consolation to the Union College student that he was fifth in the U23 division.
Germany has taken the five World Cup team relays held to date, having clinched the overall tour crown in the process. They delivered on that pattern in the World Championship race.
Starting last in the field of 12 teams, Loch joined World Champions Natalie Geisenberger and the doubles team Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt to defeat Russia by 0.08 of a second. Canada was third.
The International Luge Federation (FIL) and Swiss Timing released the Germans winning relay time of 2:13.152 as a track record on the results document. However, the keeping of such data has come into question in recent days as those two organizations are not recognizing the track record of USA Luge’s Kate Hansen, set a year ago in winning a World Cup event in which Germany participated, although their Olympic team did not. It is Geisenberger’s first heat time on Saturday, 0.127 of a second slower than Hansen’s, that is being credited as the official track record.
The American team, second ranked overall in the World Cup team relay standings, was comprised of Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., Mazdzer, and doubles athletes Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. They settled for fifth place, about 0.4 of a second from the podium.
USA Luge will have to summon its forces in the final team relay event two weeks from now in Sochi as their advantage over third place Russia has shrunk to 10 World Cup points. The US has two silver medals and one bronze in team relays to date.
Before that, however, there is the resumption of the tour schedule in Altenberg, Germany Feb. 21-22, which will include the third and final Sprint World Cup.
Coverage of the Sigulda World Championships is scheduled for Universal Sports Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 16-17, at 8 PM ET.
NBC Sports Network will also air action from Sigulda on Friday, Feb. 20, from 9-11 PM ET.