Above: The USA's silver medla winning relay squad of Matt Mortensen, Jayson Terdiman, Emily Sweeney and Chris Mazdzer.
Above: The Koenigssee men's podium with Andi Langenhan of Germany (L), Felix Loch of Germany and Chris Mazdzer of the United States. AP photo.
Above: Chris Mazdzer in action during the fourth World Cup of the 2014-15 season in Koenigssee, Germany on Jan. 4
KOENIGSSEE, Germany – USA Luge is now two-for-two in team relays this season after racing to a World Cup silver medal Sunday as the 12 days of Christmas came to an end in this Bavarian resort. The United States collected a World Cup bronze medal last month in Lake Placid.
The team relay, a part of the World Cup circuit since 2007-2008, made its Olympic debut in Sochi.
Emily Sweeney and Chris Mazdzer in singles teamed with the doubles unit of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman to place behind Germany and ahead of Canada to end the week in Koenigssee.
It’s the first season Mortensen and Terdiman have slid together, medaling in both relays to date. The 21 year old Sweeney also marked her first World Cup team relay after finishing fourth in Saturday’s singles event.
“I was a little more nervous today than usual,” admitted Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. “I hadn’t been nervous in any of the races this year so this was a little different for me. It was nice to have a team aspect to it. We do an individual sport, but this is the only time when we’re really a team. It was cool to work with other people.”
This was the first World Cup medal for the 2013 Junior World Champion.
“The morale….the Team USA backing is always very strong with the group,” added Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. “I love the team relay. It’s my favorite event, for sure.”
Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. entered the team relay shortly after collecting a singles bronze medal, his first career medal outside North America.
“Anytime you come off medaling in singles, especially in Koenigssee, it’s huge momentum to medal in the heart of Germany in a German-based sport. So going into the relay it was nice to have medaled. I had problems in the S curves, which still scare me. But going from (the lower) ladies start (in the relay) is not as intense so I was able to really relax through there and have a good rest of the run.”
Through four of nine stops on the World Cup tour, USA Luge has now accrued nine medals, and is ranked second overall in the Team Relay standings behind Germany, 200 points to 155.
Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., both Sochi Olympians with different doubles partners, have been the lone constants in the U.S. success to date. The event is set up for all teammates to be completely unaware of each other’s race runs and their standing.
“As the anchor you do it with everything you’ve got, and pull as hard as you can, and paddle as fast as you can and put down the best possible run,” said Mortensen. “We know we’re the anchor and it could depend on us. We don’t really know if that’s the case, but we take it like that every time we do the team relay.”
The winners threw their four 2014 Olympic gold medalists at the field and won in convincing fashion. Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, all winners in their disciplines this weekend in Koenigssee, collaborated for the gold medal in 2 minutes, 44.493 seconds.
The United States was next in 2:45.895. Canada’s bronze medal time was 2:46.394.
Earlier in the day, Mazdzer proved that World Cup luge medals sometimes come from the unlikeliest places and at the unlikeliest times. Such was the case when the two-time Olympian and six-time Norton National Champion, fresh from a week of disastrous training, rallied in the midst of snowfall to claim a bronze medal.
It was Mazdzer’s first career World Cup medal outside North America, and saw him improve from eighth place after the first heat.
“I’m stoked. It was an awesome experience,” said Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. “I had terrible training, minimal runs, crashed really hard in (turns) S2-S3, and pulled it out for the race. I was nervous after terrible training.”
But the 26 year old persevered at this unique and classic venue that runs along the foot of Watzmann Mountain.
“I was lucky. It was snowing. I was able to have two pretty decent runs in sketchy conditions. I’m excited. It all worked out for me. I had track sweeps (to remove fresh snow) before me in both runs and that was the difference. There were just 0.02 of a second between third and fourth places. The combination of everything really worked out.”
Germany’s two-time defending Olympic champion Felix Loch, with the two fastest individual runs, won the race on his home track in 1:39.716 (49.773-49.943). It was the 21st career victory and third this season for the overall World Cup leader.
Teammate Andi Langenhan was 0.75 of a second off the pace. Mazdzer had the third fastest final run, and was 8-tenths of a second behind Loch in 1:40.525. Mazdzer and Langenhan are tied for third on the season-long campaign with 323 points to Loch’s 463. It’s the highest Mazdzer has ever been ranked.
Sochi Olympian Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn., the World Cup winner in Lake Placid last month, stood seventh at the break, but encountered difficulties midway through the final leg and wound up 10th in 1:40.767. He’s sixth in the overall World Cup standings.
Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y., another 2014 Olympian, did not advance from Friday’s Nations Cup qualifier.
USA Luge will spend the next week training in Koenigssee, site of the 2016 World Championships. The World Cup tour resumes Jan. 17-18 in Oberhof, Germany.