USA Luge led by Mazdzer/Terdiman in Altenberg’s varying weather

By Sandy Caligiore | Feb. 02, 2019, 9:33 a.m. (ET)

ALTENBERG, Germany – Weather continues to impact the World Cup luge circuit as Saturday’s races were affected first by rain and fog, and then by heavy snowfall in Altenberg, Germany, on the border of the Czech Republic.

Such is the capricious weather in Saxony - prior to heavy snowfall for much of the men’s singles race, the second heat in the morning doubles competition turned wet with rain and fog.

USA Luge’s best sled belonged to the doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman who finished ninth, as Mazdzer continues to work through a neck problem he sustained pulling from the start handles in training two weeks ago.

The ensuing men’s race saw Jonny Gustafson take 16th place, while Tucker West only received one run due to the weather. West, a two-time Olympian, struggled on the start ramp and wound up 29th in his lone heat. Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, opted to race only in doubles as he did at World Championships last week.

Gustafson will join the doubles team in Sunday’s team relay. The foursome will be completed by either Summer Britcher or Emily Sweeney. That berth will be determined Sunday morning.


Above: Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman at the start of the first heat in Altenberg.


Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., recorded two runs totaling
1 minute, 24.136 seconds. They were eighth in the opening attempt, but when the weather changed, so did all the second run times.

The American Olympians wound up 0.67 of a second from Austrian winners Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller. Mazdzer and Terdiman are in seventh place in the overall World Cup standings, but just eight points from fifth. There are two doubles events and a sprint race remaining on the 2018-2019 schedule.

German World Champions (2017, 2019) Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken were 0.04 of a second from the winners, with the ageless Latvian brothers, Andris and Juris Sics, who hold three Olympic medals, securing the bronze, 0.38 from Steu and Koller. The only Austrian team on the circuit captured their third win of the year after finishing fourth in Pyeongchang.

The start of the Altenberg course, a short one coming out of the junior start, helped determine the final outcome. It victimized four-time Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. The Germans bumped the right wall below the start handles and rolled the sled onto its side. They were able to salvage the run to finish last.

The prideful duo started the final heat and promptly claimed the fastest run. They remain in third place in the season-long World Cup chase.

Eggert and Benecken have been off the podium just once in nine starts and hold the overall lead with 810 points. Steu and Koller are second with 652.


Above: Jonny Gustafson takes curve 14 in Altenberg during his first heat of World Cup competition.


When the men’s race commenced, Altenberg morphed into a snow globe with heavy precipitation. In the second leg, the track crew swept every three racers as flakes, seemingly the size of egg whites, pummeled the course.

The decision was made to restrict the second leg to the top 20, which eliminated West, of Ridgefield, Conn., from sliding a final heat.

Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., qualified sixth on Friday and took 16th.

Conditions fortuitously improved for the final five sleds of the competition that saw Felix Loch, of Germany, win his first World Cup event of the season and second straight after securing his sixth world title last weekend in Winterberg.

The 2010 and 2014 Olympic champion, who made a weather-related adjustment prior to the race, spotted Austria’s Reinhard Egger a lead of 0.05 at the intermission. But Loch stormed back in the final run to post a gold medal time of 1:48.669. Egger, in a breakout season, was runner-up by merely 0.004. Pyeongchang bronze medalist Johannes Ludwig, also of Germany, placed third in 1:48.780.

After nine of 12 events, Ludwig leads the overall standings with 543 points, just six ahead of Loch. Egger, with four podium results including a victory, has now moved up to third at 520 points. 

Mazdzer is 13th; West is 14th; Gustafson 16th. All three have less than the maximum nine starts to date.

The Altenberg race weekend concludes with women’s singles beginning at 3:15 AM ET Sunday, followed by the team relay.

Broadcast coverage from Altenberg is scheduled for the Olympic Channel Feb. 2 from 1-2:30 PM ET; Olympic Channel Feb. 3 from 3-4 PM ET; and NBC Sports Network Feb. 3 from 10 PM ET to midnight.