CALGARY, Alberta – The United States took the silver medal Saturday in a World Cup luge team relay event on the 1988 Olympic track in Calgary, Alberta.
Singles athletes Summer Britcher and Tucker West, with the doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman finished right behind Germany and ahead of Austria in the second relay of the season. Another four team relays are scheduled after the holidays.
Mazdzer, 2018 Olympic silver medalist, and Terdiman collected their first World Cup medal as a team. Until last month, they hadn’t competed together for 10 years.
“Tucker came down in the lead,” said Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. “Summer was right there, so we have some time to pick up on the (German doubles), but not bad for race three.”
In the earlier women’s singles race that saw many struggle, Britcher was fifth, Emily Sweeney sixth, Raychel Germaine 14th and Brittney Arndt tied for 15th. The race saw Julia Taubitz, of Germany, finally shake free of teammate Natalie Geisenberger en route to her first career gold medal.
The Calgary course has long had a reputation as one that’s easy to negotiate, but very difficult to slide fast. A number of top brand-name athletes discovered that.
In women’s singles, Olympic medalists such as Germans Tatjana Huefner and Dajana Eitberger were struggling to contend. Eitberger, in fact, crashed and broke a sled runner. World Cup and World Championship medalists like Tatyana Ivanova, of Russia, were well off the pace.
The Calgary course doesn’t tolerate mistakes, particularly at the bottom which is flatter than the upper sections. The formula is to generate speed from the top and bring it onto the bottom section.
Britcher was in position for a medal as she sat in third place through one heat. Over the top half of her final run, the Glen Rock, Pa. competitor was accelerating until she got off line and had to play catch-up. In luge, that means corrections and excess steering, leading to friction with the ice.
Sweeney was tied for eighth after one run and improved two spots in the finale.
The second team relay of the World Cup season saw Germany, which has dominated this event since its inception in 2011, return to the winner’s circle for the 36th time after being upended by Russia last weekend at Whistler.
The USA Luge foursome had done all they could to get the lead, and then found themselves in the helpless position of watching. Unlike a week ago when Germany couldn’t overtake Russia, this time Taubitz, Felix Loch, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt got the job done in 2 minutes, 21.550 seconds, with the Americans 0.269 of a second behind.
“I was pretty happy with my run,” stated Britcher. “I didn’t quite have the result that I wanted this morning, but I new we had some great potential for the team relay competition. We all came out pretty strong. We put together quite a race.”
To achieve that silver medal, Mazdzer and Terdiman needed a great save in the lower labyrinth.
“We were just flying,” replayed two-time Olympian Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. “We were going too fast for what the curve in front of us was expecting from us, so we took it to the roof. We came out and stuck our landing and came across that line in very good position.”
Britcher, the second fastest among the women, and West, fastest among the men, put the team in first place. Fast reaction times by West and the doubles helped set the stage.
“The run was good. The relay is kind of where I flourish,” stated West, of Ridgefield, Conn. “I was happy to be in the race. I had a great start. The start curve wasn’t the best, but there’s always things to improve on. I’m just excited to see the team has incredible speed so hopefully this carries all the way through the season.”
The U.S. improved to third in the season-long World Cup chase with 135 points. Germany leads with 185. Russia, fourth Saturday, has 160. The next team relay will occur in Koenigssee, Germany next month.
Taubitz, after finishing runner-up to Geisenberger in the first three World Cup races of the season, finally overcame the hurdle and won her first career World Cup race. In the process, Taubitz relegated Geisenberger to the silver medal.
Kim McRae, of Canada, currently a part-time luge racer and full-time nursing student, made her season’s debut on home ice. Perhaps inspired by the official farewells for retired teammates Alex Gough and Sam Edney, McRae slid away with the bronze medal right behind the Germans.
Taubitz turned back Geisenberger by 0.1 of a second on a clear day with temps in the mid-20s. The winner had the best time of both legs and totaled 1:33.408. McRae was almost 0.5 behind Taubitz.
A two-time Olympian, Britcher was just 0.07 from McRae’s bronze medal time.
“I am pretty disappointed,” said Britcher. “I was sitting in third place after the first run. I knew going into the race that I had a good amount of potential to succeed here. I’ve been on the podium here before. Last year I finished in fifth place and I was hoping for something better, but fifth isn’t too terrible.”
Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., a 2018 Olympian, was 0.002 behind her teammate.
“My two runs were not the cleanest. I only took four training runs this week and had one semi-clean run out of the four, so I’m not heartbroken over today. I’m happy with my sixth place. I’m very happy with that. I’m very excited to go back to Lake Placid next week. I’m just excited to slide there. I love that track.”
Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., clocked 1:34.474; Arndt, of Park City, Utah was 0.01 behind Germaine. They rank 18th and 23rd, respectively, in the World Cup standings.
On the season, Geisenberger is 30 World Cup points in front of Taubitz. Britcher is sixth and Sweeney 12th after missing two events on the first weekend of the year.
The World Cup tour is now set to move on to Lake Placid for races Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16. Sprint racing will be contested on Mount Van Hoevenberg in addition to singles and doubles.
NBC Sports Network will have coverage from Calgary at 6 PM ET on Sunday, December 9. Fans can catch all the action in spectacular high definition via NBC Sports online at NBCSports.com/Live, or through the NBC Sports app which is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.