13 World Cup medals is best since 1996-1997 season
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – On the last day of the World Cup luge season, the United States finished fourth in the team relay on the 2014 Olympic track, and ended the campaign in third place overall behind Germany and Russia.
In men’s singles, the finale saw Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. continue his improvement with a sixth place effort and fifth ranked in the overall World Cup standings for the second straight season.
“It was a really good day for me,” said the two-time Olympian. “Unfortunately I messed up the first run right at the very start. It was something weird I’ve never done here. I drifted to the right, settled (into the sled) and nicked the wall. I was bummed right away because I knew it killed all of my time. But I was lucky with the weather in that it slowed (the track) for some of the better guys and kept me in the mix.
“I had a great second run. I was extremely competitive. If I hadn’t messed up the first run at the start, I could have definitely been on the podium again.”
Mazdzer, who medaled in four straight races in mid-season, had a hand in six of the team’s 13 World Cup medals, matching the same total set in 1996-97.
Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. placed 16th in his return to the Sanki Sliding Center, and wound up sixth overall on the strength of gold, silver and bronze medals earlier in the year.
Neither racer competed in the total of 12 singles and Sprint World Cup events. For Mazdzer it became a matter of consistency.
“This year I made some huge gains,” he remarked. “But I still have to work on consistency. I can be fast at times, but I’m struggling a little bit in the racing. I’m really close.
“I’m really bummed with how the very end of the season turned out with the crash in Altenberg (last week) and then missing the Sprint Cup. Otherwise I would have been fighting for second place overall in the world today. Instead I settled for fifth.”
Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y. finished 33rd in just five World Cups starts before hand and foot injuries ended his season.
The final day of World Cup competition saw Russia, which skipped last week’s races in Altenberg to get even more extra time at Sanki, finish 1-2 in men’s singles.
All this occurred against the backdrop of the Russian Riviera that, similar to last year’s Winter Games, brought temperatures comfortable enough to dine outside and a village full of tourists, thus dispelling the notion that no one would find this region near the Black Sea once the Games ended.
One could make the case that this ambiance and a memorable World Cup opening ceremony invigorated the Russian luge team with four weekend medals.
After winning the World Championship two weeks ago for his first-ever victory, Semen Pavlichenko captured his first career World Cup race in 1 minute, 44.020 seconds for his two runs down the long Olympic track. He finished ahead of teammate Alexandr Peretjagin, who posted 1:44.252. Peretjagin had nursed a dislocated shoulder since the Lake Placid World Cup three months ago and will forego the Russian Championships in favor of surgery.
Two-time Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany, seventh after one heat, grabbed the bronze medal with a second run rally. Loch, who clinched this season’s overall World Cup title last month, totaled 1:44.339.
Mazdzer sat in fifth place at the mid-point of the race before settling for sixth at the end in 1:44.430, about 0.09 of a second from the podium.
“The fight is there. The ability to go fast is there,” continued Mazdzer. “I just have to execute two perfect runs. I was close to doing that a lot of times (this season) and today was one of those times I was really close.”
West recorded a time of 1:45.012 on the track that features three uphill sections.
Loch concluded the season with 975 total World Cup points with fellow German Andi Langenhan second at 645. Rising Austrian Wolfgang Kindl took third with 605 points.
Mazdzer had 547 and West 445 points.
The sixth and final team relay, which made its Olympic debut on this course last February, saw Germany complete the season sweep. Dajana Eitberger, the women’s winner on Saturday, joined Loch and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, who also won 24 hours earlier, at the top of the podium. The winners totaled 2:45.468.
Russia was a close second in the race and second overall on the season. The home team put down a team relay time of 2:45.528 and in the process, pushed the U.S. foursome down to third place in the final World Cup standings. Latvia was third in 2:45.775.
The American unit was comprised of Erin Hamlin, Mazdzer, whose reaction times have topped the charts all season, and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman. Their fourth place time was 2:46.120.
After the U.S. occupied second place all season on the strength of a bronze and two silver medals in the first three races, Russia came from third place Sunday and claimed the runner-up position on the winter.
Germany finished with a perfect 600 World Cup points. Russia had 420 and the U.S. 405.
USA Luge athletes, after being in Europe since late December, are now looking forward to some rest and relaxation.
In conjunction with team sponsor Norton Saint-Gobain, the athletes will return to the ice in Lake Placid in three weeks to test evolving sled technology and components.
Preparation for next season starts that soon.