Action from the final World Cup of the 2019-2020 season, plus a photo of FIL President Josef Fendt, who announced his retirement on Friday
Photos: Fred Zimny, Jill Cardinale Segger and the International Luge Federation
KOENIGSSEE, Germany – In the final weeks of the season, the United States took the team concept in luge and ran with it as, once again, the Americans finished with a silver medal Sunday in a team relay that concluded the 42nd Viessmann World Cup season.
As has been the case going back to the Oberhof World Cup and the recent World Championships, the quartet of singles sliders Summer Britcher and Tucker West, with the doubles team of Chris Mazdzer/Jayson Terdiman, put themselves in contention and then had to wait it out. The silver medal – the team’s 11th medal of the World Cup season - occurred on a day full of drama in both the men’s race and the relay.
USA Luge started early in the team relay field and held the advantage until only Germany could surpass them. Britcher, fourth in singles Saturday and fifth on the campaign, was nearly flawless racing the lead leg putting her team into third place.
“It was a pretty good run,” said Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa. “I had a few small mistakes, but I always feel confident knowing I have these three guys behind me ready to throw down and put together a solid competition.”
West then took over with the best reaction time in the field, and despite a bobble as he settled into his sled, held Britcher’s position. “It was a close one today,” stated West. “We got it done. It was a great way to end the season.”
West wacked the touch pad at the finish and turned it over to Mazdzer and Terdiman, who sealed the runner-up spot, starting with the fourth best reaction time despite their injuries.
“The way Jayson and I finished off the season, it was pretty damn awesome,” exclaimed Mazdzer.
“It was very smooth,” added Terdiman, the two-time Olympian from Berwick, Pa. “We came up the outrun and saw the excited faces of Summer and Tucker, and ended the season on a high note once again. Now we’re going home.”
Mazdzer/Terdiman gained time from reaction to finish and had the second quickest run among the doubles teams as they seemed to find another gear in the closing weeks.
The U.S. foursome then sat in the uneasy position of occupying second place with both Russia and Italy, battling for the season championship, yet to slide. When the capricious nature of the team relay came into play, both contenders were victimized by Koenigssee’s difficulty, making it only fitting that both would finish tied with 431 World Cup points.
In the earlier pressure-packed men’s singles race, Russian Roman Repilov, in a virtual deadlock with Italian Dominik Fischnaller for the tour title, edged his closest challenger for the crown. Tucker West was the USA’s best in that event, placing 12th. Mazdzer was 17th as he is now facing surgery in March to address shoulder and elbow issues. Jonny Gustafson was 20th and Sean Hollander, in his World Cup debut, placed 23rd.
There is nothing so uncertain as a sure thing. That’s the only way to rationalize how the World Cup overall victory was settled. It makes perfect sense if one recalls all the bizarre endings to this exciting event dating back to its inception in 2007. Two weeks ago at the World Championships, a swing and a miss under the touch pad cost Russia dearly with a disqualification. On Sunday, they raced three consistent runs to slide in behind the Americans by 0.2 of a second. Italy, the final team in the field, needed just a top nine result, in a field of 10, to clinch first place on the year. They finished 10th when the doubles team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, quickest off the handles, ping-ponged from wall to wall going down the bend straightaway. With the loss of speed, the doubles sled limped to the pad and finished last. It was a blessing that they could at least share the Joska Cup with Russia.
Germany’s singles athletes Anna Berreiter, Saturday’s winner, and Felix Loch, both on their home track, along with the doubles team of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, raced away from the field in 2:42.209. They finished third with 415 World Cup points. USA Luge registered 2:43.019 and wound up seventh overall. Russia’s third place time was 2:43.217.
It was a double thriller at the track near the body of water known as The Koenigssee as first there was the matter of deciding the overall World Cup title and then the individual race victory. Russian Roman Repilov and Italy’s Dominick Fischnaller were the protagonists for the season-long championship as the Russian entered the race with just a one-point lead in the standings. Whomever finished ahead of the other would claim the Joska Cup.
After one heat, Loch, Germany’s two-time Olympic gold medalist, had the lead ahead of the daring Semen Pavlichenko of Russia. Repilov, a double World Champion last month in Sochi, was fourth with Fischnaller, the European Champion, fifth. But Fischnaller could only muster the 10th fastest second run, while Repilov set a start record on his way to the best heat time. That elevated him to the bronze medal, while Fischnaller maintained fifth, settling the overall World Cup championship.
Repilov won it for the second time, amassing 765 points to Fischnaller’s 749. Meanwhile, Pavlichenko burst ahead of Loch to end the final run and took the victory in 1:38.359, only 0.003 in front of Austrian Jonas Mueller, who led the World Cup tour at the holiday break. Repilov’s bronze medal time trailed his teammate by 0.06 of a second. Loch was relegated to fourth place, marking the first time in 12 seasons that the German did not win a World Cup race. Pavlichenko’s fly or die style brought him to third place in the final standings, only eight points behind Fischnaller.
West, of Ridgefield, Conn., was among the leaders coming off the start handles. The 2014 and 2018 Olympian had a two-heat total of 1:38.981. He was the top American on the season in 13th place overall, highlighted by a pair of silver medals. Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., Pyeongchang Olympic silver medalist, clocked 1:39.116 and concluded a partial season due to injury in 16th place. Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., posted 1:39.474 and tied for 20th place in the final rankings. Hollander was timed in 1:40.225. Zack DiGregorio, of Medway, Mass., did not qualify in Friday’s Nations Cup race as he got his second look at the World Cup after also coming over from the U.S. Junior National Team.
While the season has concluded for most of the U.S. squad, Hollander, DiGregorio, Chevonne Forgan and the doubles team of Dana Kellogg/Duncan Segger will compete next weekend in Lake Placid as they are still of junior age. They will enter the Norton USA Luge Junior National Championships March 7-8 at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
For complete results and photos, please log on to: https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Luge/NEWS/2020/March/01/USA-Bronze-in-Koenigssee-relay
USA LUGE SIDETRACKS
Of the 11 medals collected by USA Luge, nine were silver and two bronze. Britcher had a hand in six of them; West had four silver medals; Emily Sweeney picked up two silvers and a bronze in another partial season; Mazdzer/Terdiman anchored both team relay silver medals.
The Casella Waste Solutions USA Luge Challenge takes place Saturday, March 14, at Titus Mountain in Malone, N.Y. It’s free to all and lift tickets are not required.
The official unveiling of the new USA Luge start facility and offices will occur on April 4 after the Masters championship.
The 2020-2021 World Cup season will begin the final weekend of November in Igls, Austria, includes a stop in Lake Placid Jan. 23-24 and culminates in Pyeongchang in late February. The World Championships will be held Feb. 4-6 at Whistler, B.C.