On the current campaign, the Americans, in different combinations, have two silver medals and a bronze with three more team relays remaining in the second half of the season.
“I have a lot of confidence in the team that we race with,” said Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. “It doesn’t matter who it is. Whoever’s on that relay team deserves that position because they had the fastest run in the World Cup. I have a lot of faith and trust in my team, and know that we’ll be in a good position. We just follow suit and play our part. It comes down to us and we know that.”
Germany’s Sochi Olympic champions and Oberhof race winners once again took the team relay gold medal. Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt had a collective track record time of 2 minutes, 23.279 seconds. They are a perfect three-for-three this winter, and lead USA Luge in overall World Cup points, 300-240.
The U.S. contingent posted a race time of 2:24.062, with Russia next in 2:24.130.
Hamlin, the Sochi Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion, who was 10th in the morning singles race, set the table for her teammates with a consistent opening relay run. The Remsen, N.Y. athlete turned it over to Mazdzer, fresh from his World Cup singles bronze medal on Saturday.
“What helped me was having the fastest reaction (time) by a tenth of a second, which is light years in luge,” remarked Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. “That was a game-changer for me.”
He also got help from Hamlin and Canadian Sam Edney.
“I talked to Erin right before the race and she gave me her lines,” continued Mazdzer, a two-time Olympian. “I was also able to watch Sam Edney before me. I’ll watch his lines and I know based on what he does, I need to make a drive harder or less. To see that really helped me out a lot. He and I have similar styles.”
After striking the touch pad, Mazdzer’s effort now had USA Luge in medal position as the start gate opened for his doubles teammates.
Mortensen and Terdiman, both Sochi Olympians with different doubles partners, were encouraged by Saturday’s second run in the doubles race that saw them pull a strong start, leading to the fifth best heat time. Regardless, in a blind race, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the team is faring.
“We’re trying to gauge what’s going on by the PA announcer, by the tone of voice and how excited they sound,” said Terdiman, a former baseball player from Berwick, Pa. who has taken that team sports concept to the team relay in luge. “No matter what we hear, we have to do our jobs, pull an all-out start, and lay a run down. We go in mentally prepared for anything.”
“Everyone came together and had some of their best runs here,” added Mazdzer. “So to put it all together in the team relay is just awesome.” In a season that has seen the 26 year old bring home World Cup medals in North America and Europe, USA Luge now has a total of 11 medals on the year, with Mazdzer having a hand in six of them.
The previous total of 11 World Cup medals occurred in 1994-1995, led by the doubles team of Chris Thorpe and Gordy Sheer who had nine of them. The duo eventually won a 1998 Olympic silver medal in Nagano.
The team relay occurred after the women’s race that saw Germany sweep the medals, led by Geisenberger’s win. The home team took four of the top five places. Only Canadian Alex Gough got into that mix, finishing fourth.
Hamlin’s 10th place, one second from Geisenberger, topped all Americans. The American was timed in 1:24.105. She remains fifth in the overall World Cup standings.
Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine was 14th in 1:24.197; 2013 Junior World Champion Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn, who has been as high as fourth in a World Cup race this season, placed 16th at 1:24.219 and is eighth overall; 2014 Olympian Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. finished 18th in 1:24.427.
Britcher and Clukey are 13th and 14th, respectively, in the overall standings.
Geisenberger, now with six victories in seven starts this year including Sprint World Cups, survived Tatyana Huefner’s second heat track record to win by 0.07 of a second.
Geisenberger, whose overall World Cup advantage is nearly 200 points over Huefner, put down a pair of identical times of 41.552 seconds for an aggregate 1:23.104. Huefner’s two heats totaled 1:23.176, with Dajana Eitberger grabbing the bronze medal in 1:23.359.
The Viessmann FIL World Cup tour continues next week in Winterberg, Germany, a three hour drive west of Oberhof. The race program will include doubles and men’s singles on Saturday, with women’s singles and another team relay set for Sunday.
USA Luge now has its sights set on the team record of 13 World Cup medals in the 1996-1997 campaign.
Relay team interview: