Back to the ice in Lillehammer, Norway for the USA Luge National Team

By Sandy Caligiore | Sept. 24, 2019, 4:02 p.m. (ET)

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. After a summer of dryland training, start training and conditioning, USA Luge will bring its eight-member national team to Lillehammer to begin on-ice sliding starting October 2.

The squad, led by Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, 2019 World Championship bronze medalist Emily Sweeney, and last season’s third-ranked World Cup racer Summer Britcher, will train daily until October 10.

It’s the start of a seven-week run to the opening of the Viessmann World Cup season in Igls, Austria on Nov. 23-24. The Lake Placid World Cup meet takes place Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

“We’ll be trying to get as many runs as possible,” said U.S. head coach Bill Tavares. “Lillehammer is about numbers of runs and fine-tuning equipment. We want to get the athletes into a groove and get them comfortable on the sled again – however many runs it takes to achieve that. Each athlete is different.”

Joining Mazdzer, Sweeney and Britcher will be Mazdzer’s doubles partner, Jayson Terdiman. The women’s team also includes Brittney Arndt and national team newcomer Ashley Farquharson. On the men’s side, Tucker West and Jonny Gustafson round out the singles trio.

Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. but now training in Salt Lake City, had successful shoulder surgery in February, curtailing a World Cup season that saw him compete in single and doubles with Terdiman. 

“Doctors have cleared Chris,” stated Tavares. “He’s working his way back into sliding shape. Chris is a fighter.”

A three-time Olympian, Mazdzer will continue to perform double duty in 2019-2020. He and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., a member of the 2014 and 2018 Olympic teams, will debut a new doubles sled later in October when the team trains in Lake Placid.

In their debut season on the World Cup circuit, they anchored silver and bronze medals in team relays and took a silver medal in the Lake Placid sprint race. Mazdzer has become Terdiman’s third doubles partner since joining the national team over a decade ago. Terdiman previously competed at the Olympics with Christian Niccum (sixth in the 2014 team relay) and Matt Mortensen (fourth in the 2018 team relay). Both of those sled mates retired after Sochi and Pyeongchang, respectively. Mazder and Terdiman officially became a doubles team last October.

West, of Ridgefield, Conn., competed for Team USA in Sochi and Pyeongchang. He has three World Cup wins, eight career singles medals to his credit, has been part of seven team relay medals and is recognized as one of the fastest starters in the world.

Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., similarly a strong starter, enters his fourth World Cup season. He saw his best results to date last year as he gains valuable knowledge of the different tracks around the world.

Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., and Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., give USA Luge a potent one-two punch in every event. Britcher, another two-time Olympian, has five career World Cup gold medals, tops all-time in U.S. singles. Last October, Britcher competed against the men in the Lillehammer Cup exhibition race.

Sweeney made her Olympic debut in 2018. She raced a partial 2018-2019 season as she worked her way back from a crash at the Olympics. But Sweeney made her time on the ice count as the member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program scored a 2019 World Championship bronze medal. 

“Emily’s (World Championship) medal last year spoke for itself,” continued Tavares. “She slid strong at the end of last year and we expect her to pick up where she left off. With her, like Chris, it’s a process.”

Arndt and Farquharson hail from Park City, Utah, and were introduced to the sport by western program director and Olympian Jon Owen. Arndt picked up her best World Cup results last season in Lake Placid, finishing fifth and sixth, and comes with equal amounts of potential, skill and enthusiasm.

Farquharson ended her junior luge career last season, highlighted by a fourth-place performance at the World Junior Championships. She also recorded three Norton Junior National titles prior to graduating to the World Cup team.

After Lillehammer, USA Luge will hit the ice at home with camps in Lake Placid Oct. 14-19 and Oct. 27-Nov. 1. In between, they will slide at the 2010 Olympic venue at Whistler, B.C., Oct. 21-26. The 2019 Norton National Championships are set for Lake Placid Nov. 2-3.


The USA Luge Junior National Team will begin a long pre-season road trip on Sept. 26 when they depart for Lillehammer. Subsequent stops will bring them to Sigulda, Latvia and then Lake Placid on Oct. 18. The Junior World Cup opener is Nov. 21-22 in Park City, Utah.

Kaspars Dumpis, of Latvia, has been added to the USA Luge coaching staff. Dumpis, a 2006 Olympian, will assist Junior National Team Head Coach Robert Fegg. Dumpis also competed in the 2005 World Championships and later, coached the Latvian National Team from 2014-2019. He will join the team in Lillehammer later this week.

Fans will be happy to note that NBC will present live coverage of the Lake Placid women’s World Cup event on Nov. 30 at 2:30 PM ET. Additionally, NBC Sports Network will air coverage on Dec. 1 from 3:30-4:30 PM ET. The Olympic Channel will offer extensive coverage on their streaming and television platforms, with the full schedule to be announced shortly.

There will be three World Cup races prior to the December holidays. The World Championships will find the competitors returning to Sochi in February.

Construction crews continue to make great progress on the new USA Luge indoor training complex and headquarters. Work is to be completed in November. The new building is 140 feet longer than previously, and will feature two side-by-side iced ramps with four different start heights and pitches. Athletes will be able to slide on one ramp, and step into the adjacent track for a run in the opposite direction. The construction is being done with the support of New York State, Dow Chemical and Saint-Gobain. The added length will enable them to settle into the sled as well. As the construction work continues, USA Luge, since April, continues to reside temporarily at the Lake Placid beach house overlooking Mirror Lake.

A panda and a Chinese lantern child have been chosen as the mascots for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, respectively, in Beijing. The mascots were launched by the organizing committee POCOG on Septemer 17 in the Chinese capital. The panda’s name is Bing, while the child’s name is Dwen Dwen.

A working team titled Strategy and Structure has been established by the International Luge Federation (FIL). At its recent conference in Washington, D.C, the Executive Board named Secretary General Einars Fogelis of Latvia as chairman. The working group is to develop a strategic plan, to be presented at the 2020 FIL Congress. Further key aspects of the meeting were reports on preparations for the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne and the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.