PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Wide-eyed Olympic rookies Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk led USA Luge with an eighth place finish Wednesday night in the doubles event at the Alpensia Sliding Centre.
Teammates Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman took 10th place on a night that turned noticeably warmer and calmer than any day in the past week.
The American teams were seventh and sixth, respectively, in their opening heats.
After the intermission, their two-heat times put then nearly one second behind repeat Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany.
Austria’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler took the silver, finally achieving the Olympic medal that eluded them on the final run four years ago in Sochi. The dominant World Cup team of the past three years, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, also of Germany, raced to the bronze medal.
Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa. soaked in every thousandth of their two-heat time of 1 minute, 32.652 seconds. They also waited for the sport’s grandest stage to have their best international result outside Lake Placid.
“Best day of work ever,” exclaimed Krewson. “This has been fantastic. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed sliding this much ever. Leading up to this race, waking up this morning, we were so excited to get out here and couldn’t wait to race. And it ended up working out so well.”
“I can’t complain. I’m so excited. It couldn’t have gone any better,” added Sherk. “It was funny. Up at the top it kind of felt like training. It didn’t feel like the Olympics, but when you go through all the corners and you see rows of people….like five rows solid of people. There was so much cheering. I could hear it in every single corner.
Mortensen and Terdiman clocked a combined 1:32.687 for their two trips.
“We had great training this week,” said Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. “It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out in our favor, but we still have to look forward. We have a great opportunity tomorrow night (team relay). Summer (Britcher), Chris (Mazdzer), ourselves. If we all have clean runs, we could find ourselves on that podium. I truly believe that.
“We’re still at the Olympics. It’s still an amazing experience. My family is here. I’m excited to go and see them when this is all over. Yeah, sometimes it’s not your day, but you still have to keep moving forward.”
After crashing in their final training run Tuesday, Wendl and Arlt laid down the law early, setting start and track records in their first heat. The difficult combination of curves eight and nine – a right-left combination – was straightened out perfectly by the winners, who registered 1:31.697, nearly 0.09 of a second ahead of Penz and Fischler. The Austrians have been on the podium virtually every week this past World Cup season after missing half of 2016-2017 as the result of Fischler’s circulatory problems.
Eggert and Benecken, 2017 World Champions, were overwhelming favorites entering the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but tonight they could not match their Bavarian teammates. They took the bronze medal in 1:31.987.
As the race for the medals played out, Korea took a moment to impress upon their fans and federation how they are progressing as a luge nation. Their top team of Jinyong Park and Jung Myung Cho raced to a ninth place finish, and were met with raucous applause and smiling Korean luge officials.
Coached by former world class luge and bobsled athletes Stefan (Skel) Sartor, Andre Lange and Mark Hatton, and benefiting from a start training facility near the course’s finish, Korean luge is perhaps on track to be a thing four years from now in Beijing.
Meanwhile, while Mortensen and Terdiman were disappointed with tonight’s result, the front driver quickly turned his attention to the team relay that closes the luge program in Pyeongchang on Thursday night.
“It helps soften the blow of a poor performance,” said Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. “We know we can have a great performance with our teammates tomorrow night, so I’m definitely looking forward to that. I have a good idea on how I want to set up the sled. With what we went with today, the second run was better than the first run.”
The team relay begins at 9:30 PM KT.