USA Luge led by Mazdzer-Terdiman 10th in Oberhof doubles race

By Sandy Caligiore | Feb. 09, 2019, 11:31 a.m. (ET)

 

OBERHOF, Germany In his final World Cup doubles luge race of the season, Chris Mazdzer teamed with Jayson Terdiman to finish 10th Saturday in variable weather in Oberhof, Germany.

The ensuing men’s event saw Tucker West finish 14th and Jonny Gustafson 27th. Both had issues in their opening heats as Gustafson, in his first full World Cup season and with very little Oberhof experience, prevented a crash, while West touched a wall at the beginning of the straightaway out of curve 13. His second heat was the team’s fastest, thus qualifying for the team relay berth.

Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, announced Friday night that he was ending his season this weekend and returning home to have his ailing neck examined. He and Terdiman will anchor the team relay Sunday prior to departing Monday, while their teammates will fly in the opposite direction to the World Cup finals in Sochi.

“The runs weren’t perfect, but we haven’t had a perfect run all week,” said Terdiman. “Surprisingly, our start times were much better today even though Chris is pushing through the pain. Hopefully, we can really put one together tomorrow to give the team a good chance in the relay.”

At the moment, the duo is in sixth place in the overall World Cup standings in their return season. Prior to October 15, they had not slid together since their junior days 10 years ago.

USA Luge is competing this weekend with a slim roster as West, Gustafson and Summer Britcher are the lone singles competitors in Oberhof. Emily Sweeney has been resting this week – part of her comeback plan after the crash in South Korea a year ago - and did not slide on the old-school, luge-centric track in the Thuringia region of Germany. The World Championship bronze medalist will return to action in Sochi on the weekend of Feb. 23-24.

Above: World Cup luge action from Oberhof, Germany on Feb. 9, 2019, featuring Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman at the start of run one.

DOUBLES

The race, which began with light rain and fog, came down to a German matchup before a large and vocal crowd which included the Minister President of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow. Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, the two-time and defending Olympic gold medalists, and teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, the two-time and defending World Champions, continued their global rivalry to begin the weekend.

Oberhof is more home to Eggert and Benecken, while Bavarians Wendl and Arlt might be more comfortable in Koenigssee. But in one of the many anomalies in luge, this season the two teams won on the other’s home track.

Wendl and Arlt hold the track record in Oberhof, and today, they proved how it happened by turning back their compatriots by 0.2 of a second over the two runs. The winners had the two fastest heats of the morning and recorded a combined 1 minute, 21.951 seconds on Oberhof’s shorter, but technical layout.

Eggert and Benecken clocked 1:22.151. Latvians Andris and Juris Sics, ages 33 and 35 respectively, have gotten a second wind this season and took the bronze medal in 1:22.274. It was their third straight podium result.

As the European Championships are being held concurrently this weekend, that race within the race had the identical result with Wendl and Arlt claiming their third continental title.

Eggert and Benecken are well ahead in the overall World Cup classification with just two races remaining. Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller, of Austria, were a distant fourth Saturday but hold second place on the season. However, Wendl and Arlt are just 14 points behind the Austrians heading to Sochi.

Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., finished 0.9 off the winning pace. In an Instagram post Friday night, Mazdzer said he entered the season with his physical health at less than 100 percent. Yet, the twosome was in the top 10 all season, recorded a sprint silver medal and helped USA Luge to silver and bronze medals in the team relay.

With the neck issue following shoulder surgery several years ago, those problems are manifested at the start where the Americans have given up time this season. The driving and sliding have been no worry as an examination of times all season clearly indicate a team with the ability to gain valuable time down the course.

Terdiman added, last night, that he’s anxious to see how much they can improve with a completely healthy teammate. After Sunday, that will be dictated by Mazdzer’s medical evaluation and ensuing course of action, followed by time and an off season of preparation – to be continued in October.

Above: Tucker West of the United States prepares for his first heat in Oberhof, Germany on Feb. 9, 2019 during the World Cup luge event.

MEN

Wind, sun, rain, warming temps and no German on the podium. In Oberhof, most of that might be expected, but the final point has never happened. On the weather front, luge racers have contended with imperfect conditions at most German races this season.

The Russians dominated with Semen Pavlichenko and Roman Repilov finishing 1-2, with Latvia’s Kristers Aparjods taking the bronze for his first career World Cup medal.

Pavlichenko, the 2015 World Champion, is the ultimate risk-taker. With his head back and sliding mostly blind, Pavlichenko can be fire on ice. He removes himself from the air flow so any small mistakes that occur going down the hill are overcome with aerodynamics.

In the final heat, Pavlichenko, in second place, overtook his teammate for the victory by 0.04 of a second. The Latvian, who was crowned gold medalist at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games, was 0.18 from the winner. Reinhard Egger, of Austria, 2019 World Championship runner-up, missed the podium by 0.01 of a second.

The most glaring omission was the lack of Germans on the podium on a track where they are typically uber dominant. On his home course, Olympic bronze medalist Johannes Ludwig was fifth, while six-time World Champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Felix Loch settled for seventh. Loch has won this competition eight times, and grabbed his first world title here in 2008.

This was also the order of finish in the European Championships, with Pavlichenko victorious for the fourth time.

West, meanwhile, of Ridgefield, Conn., won the Nations Cup qualifier a day earlier. In the World Cup, the two-time Olympian’s starts were, as always, stellar but the two trips to the finish bled speed. His two-run time of 1:26.872 was two-thirds of a second behind Pavlichenko. Such is the nature of luge that the top 23 racers were clocked in the same second.

Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., rebounded with a final heat that bettered his first by 0.8 of a second. His final time was 1:27.832.

The battle at the top will be intriguing at the finals on the 2014 Olympic track. With just a singles race and a sprint event remaining, Ludwig remains slightly ahead of the field with 598 overall World Cup points, followed by Pavlichenko at 588, Loch 583 and Egger with 580.

USA Luge athletes are led in the rankings by Mazdzer in 13th despite abandoning singles racing a month ago with his neck problem. West is 14th, while Gustafson sits in 17th place.

Oberhof weekend concludes Sunday with women’s singles and the team relay at 3 AM ET. Watch the live stream on OlympicChannel.com. The Olympic Channel will provide television coverage Feb. 9 from 6:30- 8PM ET and Feb. 10 from 7-8 PM ET.

RESULTS AND STANDINGS