LILLEHAMMER, Norway – Jonny Gustafson and Tucker West were 13th and 17th, respectively, Sunday for USA Luge as the Viessmann Lillehammer World Cup concluded for the American team earlier than expected. Due to Chris Mazdzer’s physical ailments, he and doubles teammate Jayson Terdiman could not participate in the team relay that ended the weekend. As the lone U.S. doubles sled, the team could not field an entry in the race. Mazdzer got no closer to the track Sunday than the live stream commentary booth.
Nevertheless, Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., plan to compete in doubles next month at the World Championships in Sochi. Also, Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., West, of Ridgefield, Conn. and Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, are set to race singles in Sochi. All three have completed the qualification criteria.
As much as the USA’s Summer Britcher has found comfort in sliding in Lillehammer – she won a World Cup silver medal on Saturday, and a pair of gold medals two years ago – the 1994 Olympic track is also a safe haven for Dominik Fischnaller. On a day that was clear and colder than Saturday, the track record tumbled at least seven times. The Italian, trailing Russia’s Semen Pavlichenko by 0.002 at halftime after Pavlichenko set the mark at 48.761 seconds, overtook the 2015 World Champion in the final run to win for the sixth time in his career and the second time in Lillehammer. He has also won a sprint cup medal here, and was part of Sunday’s silver medal in the team relay. A second heat glitch by Pavlichenko in the early stages opened the door for Fischnaller. But don’t feel sorry for the Russians as they finished 2-3-5-7.
There were no Germans on the leaderboard until eighth place, which is where 2018 Olympic gold and bronze medalist Johannes Ludwig finished. Teammate Felix Loch, a triple Olympic gold medal winner, had the third fastest final heat, which elevated him to 15th place.
Fischnaller’s two-heat time of 1 minute, 37.737 seconds was 0.17 of a second better than Pavlichenko, with fellow Russian and overall World Cup leader, Roman Repilov, third, trailing the winner by 0.22 of a second. Repilov, who crashed in the final (seeded) training run on Friday afternoon, still leads the standings with 536 points, with Fischnaller next at 450. Austrian Jonas Mueller, 11th Sunday, is third with 419 overall World Cup points. Pavlichenko is fourth.
West, as high as third overall last month after a pair of silver medals in Lake Placid, is sixth at 330 points after clocking 1:39.091. Drilling into the split times and rankings, Gustafson continues to show signs of improvement, while West showed very good speed in the second heat. Gustafson was 10th at the break, but bled time heading down the Hunderfossen track in the final leg. He posted 1:38.801 and is 16th overall with 164 points. Mazdzer is 13th with 241.
Austria won a team relay for the first time since it entered the World Cup in 2010. Madeline Egle, 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, and the doubles team of Thomas Steu/Lorenz Koller withstood a final charge by Italy to take the gold medal. The winners were timed in a track record 2:36.912. Italy’s entry, which included Fischnaller, was second by 0.1 of a second, with Latvia third. Germany took fourth, and Russia, after their success in the previous three events, was a surprising fifth. The latter two nations could not complete three runs cleanly and give themselves a chance to contend, as significant skids out of curve 13 victimized both teams.
After three of six World Cup relays this season, the chase is very tight with Italy forging their way to first place with 255 points, followed closely by Austria with 245 and Germany at 215. Russia remains a factor with 201 points. The U.S. team is 10th with 100 points having competed in two of the three relays to date.
USA LUGE SIDETRACKS
Some USA Luge juniors, who will age out of the younger ranks this season, are about to taste World Cup racing for the first time. The doubles team of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger will race in Sigulda, Oberhof and Koenigssee. Chevonne Forgan and Zack DiGregorio will get opportunities in Oberhof and Koenigssee, while Sean Hollander will start in Koenigssee.
The Viessmann World Cup tour now moves to the Baltic region with events next weekend in Sigulda. Men’s and women’s singles will be contested, along with doubles and the final sprint cup of the season.
Television coverage on Sunday Jan. 19 will be provided by NBC Sports Network at 6 PM ET, followed by the Olympic Channel at 7 PM ET.
Luge racing at the Youth Olympic Games will conclude on Monday in St. Moritz with the team relay. The Olympic-sanctioned event is for athletes ages 15-18. The USA Luge entry will consist of Matt Greiner, McKenna Mazlo and the doubles team of Maya Chan/Reannyn Weiler. Race time is 2:30 AM ET.