USA Luge led by doubles teams in Altenberg World Cup

By Sandy Caligiore | Dec. 02, 2017, 10:25 a.m. (ET)

ALTENBERG, Germany – Americans Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th Saturday in the third World Cup doubles race of the season, leading the USA Luge effort on the day at this German resort adjacent to the border of the Czech Republic.

Two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, finishing 19th, was the U.S. team’s best in the singles race that occurred later in the day. Teammates Tucker West ran into first run problems late on the track, while Taylor Morris, en route to being the team’s best in the race, rolled over in the Omega curve on the upper section of the course and then recovered.

West, whose start times were in the top two of both runs, wound up 27th, and Morris 31st. Morris, however, had the single best heat among his teammates, and will race in Sunday’s team relay.

Jake Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza backed up Mortensen and Terdiman in 15th. Similar to Morris, Hyrns and Espinoza had the single fastest doubles run among the U.S. teams and will get the nod in the team relay. Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk were 20th after qualifying seventh Friday.

Germany continued to dominate the doubles event, with Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken winning for the third straight week, thus padding their overall World Cup lead. Only a stellar effort from Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler prevented a German sweep. It was the first World Cup podium result for Penz and Fischler since the latter’s circulatory issues last season.

Eggert and Benecken were 0.08 of a second ahead of the Austrians after one heat, and despite a less than perfect start corner and exit of curve nine in the second run, managed to increase the advantage by another 0.19 of a second.

The winners clocked two heats in a combined 1:23.539 on the short doubles layout. Penz and Fischler had the silver medal time of 1:23.808, followed by Robin Geuke and David Gamm in 1:23.991.

The bronze medalists rallied from seventh place with the second fastest final run. The youngsters are third in the World Cup standings and are regulars in the top three each week. But given the team’s depth, their best hope for an Olympic berth will come in four years.

Another young team, Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, of Italy, in just their second World Cup start, astonished with a sixth place performance. It was also noteworthy in that Nagler and Malleier were in Altenberg only to get additional track time in advance of February’s Junior World Championships.

Eggert and Benecken have 385 total World Cup points, followed by Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, fourth Saturday, with 315. Geuke and Gamm are third ranked at 236.

Eggert and Benecken, 2017 World Champions, are shaping up to be overwhelming favorites heading into Pyeongchang, curves eight and nine notwithstanding. Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, the defending Olympic gold medalists, will also be considered for medal potential.

Mortensen and Terdiman improved from 15th place to 11th in 1:24.321.

“There was no secret sauce on the second run. We just started off earlier,” said Mortensen. “The track was getting progressively slower on each run, so going off sooner was a big help for a better comparative time. We were also trying a different (sled) set up this race which was not conducive to the conditions. However, the silver lining is that Jayson and I still performed well and we can make adjustments based off our times today. Our main goal is, and will continue to be, going fast at the Olympic Games. Everything we are doing presently is to assist us in achieving that goal.” 

They put down the fifth fastest final leg on the Altenberg course that provided a World Cup silver medal at last year’s tour finals. The result hoisted the duo into third place overall for the 2016-2017 season. It was the first top three doubles finish for USA Luge in 14 years.

“I’m very happy with the race overall,” added Terdiman. “We executed everything we were trying to, but some days just aren’t your day. We did learn a good bit about the setup we decided on this week and will look to improve on it moving forward. Our eyes are set on early February and this week’s information will help us in that venture.”

Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. secured an A tier Olympic qualification last week in Winterberg with their fifth place finish. The Sochi Olympians – with different doubles teammates at the time – are in eighth place on the season, but close to the top five.

Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Espinoza, of Park City, Utah took 15th in 1:24.563. They are tied for 13th overall, but within earshot of the top 10.

Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Sherk, of Fort Washington posted 1:24.680. They are 20th on the campaign. Germany’s Felix Loch proved that what’s old is still good enough, referring to his equipment. A year ago, when Loch gave up the overall World Cup title to Russia’s Roman Repilov, the 2010 and 2014 Olympic champion was working with new sled technology. This year, however, Loch has returned to Old Faithful, and is back to his winning ways.

His two heats totaled 1:48.116, giving him his second World Cup victory of the season and providing Germany with a double gold medal day. Loch posted a 0.12 of a second advantage over Repilov, twice the Junior World Champion, who got off to a slow start to the Olympic season prior to this event.

Loch’s teammate, Andi Langenhan, improved from sixth to the bronze medal on his home track. Langenhan was timed in 1:48.398.

Loch, in the top three in all four events to date, is atop the World Cup standings by over 100 points on another Russian, 2015 World Champion Semen Pavlichenko. Austrian Wolfgang Kindl, the 2017 World Champion, is third with one podium result in four starts.

Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., clocked 1:49.364; West, of Ridgefield, Conn., had a combined 1:50.399; Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, totaled 1:51.521.combined 1:50.399; Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, totaled 1:51.521.

The Altenberg race program concludes Sunday with women’s singles at 4 AM ET, followed by the team relay. Live streaming will be available at www.olympicchannel.com.

The Altenberg stop marks the third of five consecutive weekends of racing. The finale of that stretch will occur in Lake Placid on Dec. 15-16. USA Luge will announce its 10 Olympic nominees on the evening of Dec. 16 at 6 PM in the Conference Center in Lake Placid.

RESULTS AND OVERALL STANDINGS