Above: Matt Mortensen (left) and Jayson Terdiman enjoy a lighter moment after their World Cup event in Oberhof, Germany on January 17, 2016.
OBERHOF, Germany – The USA Luge doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, in just their second season together, finished a career-best fourth Sunday afternoon in the World Cup sprint race as the weekend program in Oberhof came to an end.
Germany snatched 16 of a possible 18 medals over the two days, marking the first of three World Cup meets in that country over the final five weeks of the season.
It was also the last event before the annual World Championships, to be held January 29-31 at the iconic sliding venue in Koenigssee, Germany. It was also the last of three sprint races for the season.
Mortensen and Terdiman, 2014 Olympians with different partners, missed the podium by merely 0.006 of a second in the one run dash. They have medaled in World Cup team relays. In fact, for some time Sunday they held the lead as later teams hoped lightly falling snow would not deter their chances.
“The sprint race was more or less what I was focused on for this weekend,” said Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. “I knew that Jayson and I probably weren’t going to do that well in the World Cup (doubles) just based on our start times and how our starts have been going during the week.
“I knew that if Jayson and I made it into the Sprint Cup, we had a good chance to do pretty well because it takes the start out of it and we typically gain a lot of speed going down the track. It’s our favorite race to race. We know we’re a lot more in with that race - in the competition - than other races. So we were pretty excited to race it. That coupled with the fact that we started earlier in the draw and it was snowing and there’s no (track) sweeping. So I’m sure that played into some of the advantage we had as well.”
The duo placed 11th in the morning World Cup doubles event that was crushed by Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Artl. The Olympic and World Champions set start and track records in winning by an unimaginable 6-tenths of a second over teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken in the traditional two-heat event.
It was the same order of finish in the Viessmann World Cup Sprint, presented by BMW, with Wendl and Arlt recording a winning time of 26.166 seconds in the event with the flying start into the timing mechanism which is some 100 meters below the handles.
Eggert and Benecken, in hotly contested battles for two seasons with their fellow countrymen, posted 26.440. Triple Olympic medalists and brothers Andris and Juris Sics of Latvia took sprint bronze in 26.470, followed closely by Mortensen and Terdiman with 26.476.
“On the way down I’m always thinking about keeping everything as smooth as possible and allow as little skidding as I can,” added Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. “We’d been having great training runs even though the times weren’t there. We were having solid runs down the track all week. So I was really trying to focus on being relaxed and letting Matt hit the drives he needed to hit, and when it was my turn to really help out in curves 10-11, I made sure I did my job as well.
“We didn’t have an optimal entrance into the Kriesl (circle turn to the finish) which I do think is what cost us the time that would have put us in that bronze medal position. But we’re taking it one step at a time. We had a fifth place finish in Calgary earlier this season, fourth place now, so the next time we get a personal best it’ll be a joyous occasion.”
The result secured fifth place for the United States in the final Sprint Cup doubles standings. Wendl and Arlt won that division on the strength of two gold medals and one silver.
Wendl and Arlt ran away from the doubles field as soon as they pulled from the start handles. A record 6.549 getaway time led to a new mark of 40.693 at the finish. A second heat run of 41.020 totaled 1:21.713. Eggert and Benecken were next in 1:22.322, followed by Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler with 1:22.450.
Mortensen and Terdiman had a clocking of 1:23.287. In each heat they gained significant time from start to finish, but not enough to overcome their start times.
“For some reason I always have a hard time with the start here,” stated Mortensen. “It has to do with the timing light. It’s a flat ramp and we don’t have a lot of training or experience on flat ramps. So they’re particularly hard for us since we do the majority of our training on steep ramps like the ones we have at the office in Lake Placid.”
Wendl and Arlt also lead the World Cup doubles standings with 767 points, highlighted by four straight victories and five on the season.
Eggert and Benecken are second ranked with three gold medals and four silvers leading to 730 overall World Cup points. Penz and Fischler stand third with 665 points.
Mortensen and Terdiman remain fifth on the season with 429 points.
Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa. settled for 18th place in 1:24.541. In their first World Cup campaign together, they are 14th with 261 points.
Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y. was seventh in a women’s sprint race that saw Germany sweep the medals once again this weekend. Natalie Geisenberger, with a winning time of 26.250, finished in front of Dajana Eitberger and Tatjana Huefner, in that order.
Hamlin, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion, sailed into the start light with the second best time. But a meeting with the right wall coming out of curve 11 took her out of medal contention. She was timed in 26.481.
Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn., a World Cup silver medal winner last month in Lake Placid, also touched between curves 11 and 12. She finished eighth in 26.494.
Summer Britcher, who led the World Cup standings for several weeks, finished 12th in 26.526. Britcher from Glen Rock, Pa, is now third in the overall World Cup standings, just five points from second place.
Geisenberger leads the World Cup standings with 680 points, followed by Eitberger with 608 and Britcher at 603. Hamlin is fourth at 582, Sweeney seventh at 445, and Raychel Germaine of Roswell, Ga., 16th with 205.
Felix Loch, the 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medal winner and four-time World Champion, started 2015-2016 in atypical fashion with a disqualification and a seventh place result in the season’s first two races. But now that’s ancient history.
The German has won five consecutive gold medals after Sunday’s sprint win to create separation between himself and second place in the World Cup pecking order.
Loch clocked 33.416 leading a 1-2-3-4 finish for his team. Andi Langenhan, a winner of three World Championship medals, was next in 33.624. Ralf Palik took third in 33.668.
U.S. Olympians Chris Mazdzer and Tucker West were 10th and 14th, respectively. Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. was timed in 33.756 and West of Ridgefield, Conn. recorded 33.990.
Loch is atop the standings at 690 World Cup points. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria, 11th in the sprint race, is second with 600 points, with Mazdzer third at 511, helped by two wins and a silver medal.
West, with silver and bronze medals in USA Luge’s record-breaking season, is sixth at 427 points.
Sochi Olympian Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y. has 208 points for 15th place, and Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah, 20th, with 147.
The team will now take its 16 tour medals to the World Championships. The U.S. has collected medals in four of six World Cup weekends to set its new standard.
The World Cup season is now on hiatus until resuming in Sochi Feb. 6-7. International Training Week for the World Championships in Koenigssee begins Tuesday.
World Championship racing will include men’s and women’s singles, doubles and the team relay. Also, for the first time, there will be a Sprint World Championship to open the event on Friday, January 29 with qualification for the top 15 on Thursday, January 28.
Audio interview with Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman below