USA Luge opens World Cup season with Summer Britcher taking silver medal in Igls

By Sandy Caligiore | Nov. 23, 2019, 12:51 p.m. (ET)

IGLS, Austria – On a warm, breezy day in the Austrian Tyrol, American Summer Britcher came from fourth place in the second heat Saturday to collect a silver medal on the opening day of the Viessmann World Cup luge season

“This is my best ever result to start a season,” said Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa. “I had a really tough time last year. But now I’m pumped and looking forward to the new winter season. My aim is to be as proud of my performance as I can be every weekend.”

The lone United States doubles team of 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., with Jayson Terdiman, a two-time Olympian from Berwick, Pa., raced into 17th place as they battle through some nagging injuries and adjust to a new sled.

“I don’t ever remember being this far back in the standings,” stated Terdiman. “But with that being said, we made small steps forward with this new sled.”

The women and doubles fields raced through temperatures in the low to mid 50s and wind, resulting in softer ice and some topsy-turvy outcomes. Some critical curves, including the slow speed start turn, determined the fortunes of numerous sleds on the 1964 and 1976 Olympic track.

Britcher, a 2014 and 2018 Olympian, was the most consistent, landing her on the podium with runs that were fourth and eighth best, respectively.

Brittney Arndt, of Park City, Utah, was 13th as she begins her second World Cup season, but it was fellow Parkite Ashley Farquharson who made her very first World Cup run a memorable one.

Farquharson guided her sled into third place after one leg. She was fourth here last season in her final junior world championship race and carried the feeling to her debut at the sport’s highest level. However, she fell back in the finale and took 15th place.

Last year’s World Championship bronze medalist, Emily Sweeney, of Lake Placid, was 24th. With the exception of Britcher, who was third overall in the last two World Cup campaigns, the U.S. women qualified Friday in the Nations Cup event.

 

WOMEN

With little known Austrian Lisa Schulte holding the first heat lead, veteran Tatyana Ivanova, of Russia, maxed out her face time in the second run leader’s box. Ivanova, 13th at the intermission, threw down the fastest final run and outlasted the remainder of the field en route to her 11th career World Cup victory. Ivanova’s combined time of 1 minute, 21.304 seconds on the short Igls layout bested Britcher by 0.11 of a second.

The U.S. racer remarked after the event that she had changed her sled set-up for the final two training runs, and while it didn’t pay dividends at the time, she stayed with it and benefitted on Saturday.

“I feel like I’ve been so close at Igls so many times,” said Britcher. “At the 2017 World Championships I got fourth place by just 0.03 of a second. I was confident that I knew I was capable of getting on the podium, but not with that expectation. I’m just excited to finally be racing.”

Germany, despite the absence of Natalie Geisenberger and Dajana Eitberger who are both expecting, and the retirement of Tatjana Huefner, nevertheless, put two athletes on the podium as Julia Taubitz and Jessica Tiebel shared the bronze medal in a duplicate time of 1:21.468.

Tiebel was in second place through one run, posted the 12th best final heat time, yet still collected her medal. Taubitz, a breakout star last winter with runner-up finishes in the World Cup and World Championships, clocked individual run times that were sixth and ninth quickest, respectively, despite damaging her sled. Schulte settled for a career-best sixth place.

Arndt placed 0.38 of a second from Ivanova, while Farquharson, who will get the start in the team relay Sunday after posting the single fastest run among U.S. women, wound up 0.42 from the winner.

“It was pretty insane. The whole thing kind of felt surreal,” reflected Farquharson. “I was fifth off and didn’t expect anything, but nobody was passing me. It was like, what’s happening? I didn’t see that (third place run) coming at all.

“It was good to prove to myself that I can go as fast as anybody else. I do wish I had a cleaner second run, but I really can’t be mad about it. It was a really good experience and I’m not unhappy with the race at all.”

Sweeney hit both walls at the start curve in the first run and concluded her season debut 1.17 seconds off the pace.

 

DOUBLES

After the first run of the season-opening doubles race, Poland’s Wojciech Jerzy Chmielewski and Jakub Kowalewski had luge officials scrambling to determine if the nation had ever led a race, and further, had they ever captured one. Shortly thereafter, the search for information was called off.

As the second leg got underway, the 2016 U23 World Champions were 0.06 of a second ahead of Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. But after a clean start to their final run, the Polish duo encountered troubles at curve nine and scrubbed enough time to drop them all the way down to 13th place.

This paved the way for defending World Champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken to rise from fourth place to the gold medal in 1:20.732. The winners claimed their 40th career doubles victory, and now trail Wendl and Arlt by just two wins. The latter team, Olympic gold medalists in 2014 and 2018, were edged out by 0.009 of a second as they unveiled a new sled.

Austria’s Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller, winners in Igls a year ago, collected the bronze medal in 1:20.820. The podium success came only three weeks after Koller’s elbow surgery.

Mazdzer and Terdiman, also working with a new sled, clocked a total time of 1:21.930 to conclude a week where they struggled in training with a horrific crash on Tuesday that impacted Mazdzer.

“We had to take Wednesday off from sliding to let him heal up a bit,” said Terdiman. “Thursday’s two runs were out of control and the Nations Cup (Friday qualifier) was no better. Today, we found a little bit of control and reliability in the sled and hopefully we can start moving in a positive direction from here.”

Their next opportunity will come Sunday when they run the anchor leg in the team relay.

 

SCHEDULE AND COVERAGE

Men’s singles and the team relay will be held on Sunday. Catch the live stream on OlympicChannel.com. Broadcast coverage on Olympic Channel is set for Nov. 23 from 5:30-7 PM ET and Nov. 24 from 6-7 PM ET, with NBC Sport Network airing one hour of race action Nov. 23 at 4:30 PM ET. In all, luge fans can expect over 33 hours of coverage this season.

RESULTS