Above: Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman in action
OBERHOF, Germany – A spate of warm, wet weather continued to follow the Viessmann World Cup luge tour Saturday as temps in the mid-40s, accompanied by rain, once again had a hand in the outcome of the men’s singles and doubles races.
Fans brought umbrellas and ponchos. For track workers, it was a day more suited for squeegees instead of hoses and shovels. Earlier in the week, technical issues forced the track to shut down its water source, leading to inequitable training conditions for several sessions. The problems may have inadvertently helped the athletes adjust for race day.
USA Luge put four sleds on the ice Saturday, led by the doubles team of Chris Mazdzer/Jayson Terdiman in 12th place after several weeks of inactivity while Mazdzer took time to recover from some injuries. They finished 0.5 of a second from German winners Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. The U.S. junior team of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger, in their second World Cup start, were 16th.
The weekend started with men’s singles where Tucker West got off to a great start and was headed to a top five opening leg, but he rolled his sled entering the curve 9-10-11 combination, tumbling him to the bottom of the rankings. But to his credit, the Ridgefield, Conn. athlete rebounded with the fourth fastest final heat which got him the berth in Sunday’s team relay.
Jonny Gustafson nearly crashed in the straightaway prior to the course-ending Kriesel, but he skillfully saved the run. Gustafson finished in 22nd place.
The races were the final in the respective disciplines prior to the World Championships in Sochi from Feb. 14-16.
In the races Mazdzer and Terdiman have entered, the story has been the same. It’s not in their sliding. Rather, it’s Mazdzer’s injuries that have slowed the pairing coming off the start handles. With two weeks until the World Championship race, the team is hopeful he will feel even better.
The Americans had an eighth-place start, but veered to the right wall as they began their second run causing them to lose a few fractions, and ultimately, a few places in the final rank. Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., were able to gain time from start to finish in both runs, which told them their sliding is fine as is their equipment. Meanwhile, their younger teammates have gotten their World Cup indoctrination on the difficult tracks of Sigulda and Oberhof. Kellogg, of Chesterfield, Mass., and Segger, of Lake Placid, improved from last week as they will now return to the junior ranks to prepare for the Junior World Championships.
The German team of Wendl and Arlt could care less about the weather. They ran late in each heat, overcame a slowing track, and won their second event of the season. They took the first heat lead, posted the sixth fastest final run, and won by 0.11 of a second. Their two heats totaled 1 minute, 23.695 seconds. The Latvian Sics brothers, Andris and Juris, stood 10th at the break, but threw down the second quickest final heat to place second. Robin Geueke and David Gamm, of Germany, finally hit the podium for the first time this year with the bronze medal time of 1:23.866.
Mazdzer/Terdiman clocked 1:24.234 for the two runs. They are in 18th place in a partial season, while Kellogg/Segger checked in with 1:24.563 and are 24th after their two starts.
The victory by Wendl/Arlt brought them to within 10 points of their compatriots Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken in the winter-long World Cup battle. The latter team, on home ice, placed sixth and have been out of the medals in three of the last four events. Yet they have a tour-leading 772 World Cup points with two competitions remaining. The Sics brothers have gone gold-silver-silver in the last three outings to pull into third place with 611 points.
With the continuation of spring-like weather came a repeat of last week’s scenario in Sigulda where German Johannes Ludwig used the best of the worst ice conditions to elevate from 24th place in the first run to his second straight World Cup victory. This one occurred on his home track before his soggy fellow Thuringians. On this luge-only course, with challenging turn combinations, Ludwig, a gold and bronze medalist two years ago in Pyeongchang, recorded an early total time of 1:28.267 on the short layout. Ludwig then waited in the leader’s box, withstood the field and bested Russia’s runner-up Semen Pavlichenko, who checked in at 1:28.431. The former World Champion started 23rd in the final heat. Inars Kivlenieks of Latvia, starting the second heat in the middle of the pack, finished less than 0.01 from Pavlichenko and pocketed his first career World Cup podium result.
Pavlichenko’s teammate, Roman Repilov, striving for his second overall World Cup title, was eighth and retained the lead with 695 points with two events remaining at the end of February. Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller, a fourth-place finisher at the 2018 Winter Games by only 0.002 of a second, was ninth in the race and second on the season with 634 points. Pavlichenko is third with 609 points.
West, a member of two Olympic teams, is 11th with 365 points. Mazdzer, who has not raced singles since Altenberg three weeks ago as he takes care of a sore neck, is 15th with 241 points. Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., is 19th with 194 points. All three will represent USA Luge at the World Championships. Zack DiGregorio, of Medway, Mass., up from the junior ranks, did not qualify in Friday’s Nations Cup qualifier.
USA LUGE SIDETRACKS
U.S. Youth A athletes scored three silver medals Saturday in Youth A World Cup racing in Winterberg. Matt Greiner improved from fourth to second in singles; Maya Chan/Reannyn Weiler and Sam Day/Sam Eckert completed the run of silvers. Weather was inclement causing the doubles races to be curtailed to one heat each. All five were members of the U.S. Youth Olympic Team. On Friday, the doubles team of Sean Hollander and Michael O’Gara raced to fourth place, missing a medal by just 0.15 of a second over two heats.
In an abundance of caution, the FIL and the IBSF, in conjunction with Beijing Olympic organizers, decided to delay the pre-homologation of the 2022 Olympic track due to the threat of the coronavirus. This was to have occurred next month. New dates have yet to be announced. Summer Britcher will represent USA Luge in the first test of the new track.
The USA Luge Challenge is set to visit Titletown, adjacent to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Feb. 15-16. The final event of the winter, the Casella USA Luge Challenge, will occur at Titus Mountain in Malone, N.Y. on March 8. These events are free and open to luge enthusiasts of all ages. Youngsters, in particular, are encouraged to give it a try.