IGLS, Austria – On a day when Felix Loch of Germany captured the Eberspacher World Cup overall title setting a track record in the process, USA Luge, in position for top 10 results in both events, struggled to complete two consistent runs and finished outside the top 20 in the doubles and beyond the top 15 in men’s singles races.
Chris Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, with doubles partner Jayson Terdiman, were headed into the top 10 at the two-time Olympic site, but rolled their sled exiting curve 11 in the second heat and finished in 24th place.
Similarly, Tucker West, ninth after one run of singles, was victimized in the same section of the track and did not finish the race. Teammates Jonny Gustafson and Mazdzer did not execute their first run starts properly in the singles competition, and landed in 24th and 23rd, respectively in the opening leg, but rebounded in the second run. Gustafson’s final heat time improved 10 spots, while Mazdzer went up seven places.
The four American sleds did not qualify for Sunday’s final World Cup sprint races as that event is reserved for just the top 15 from the discipline races.
Loch’s ninth victory in 10 starts and 48th in his career gave the three-time Olympic champion his seventh career overall World Cup championship with two races still to be contested. The 31-year-old has taken gold medals in all eight of the two-run singles events. He’s grabbed one of the two sprint cup races held to date and will get another chance at the one-heat sprint on Sunday.
Unlike most of his triumphs in the 2020-2021 season, this time the Bavarian had to come from behind to defeat World Champion Semen Pavlichenko. The Russian took a 0.06 of a second advantage at the mid-point only to see Loch, in the final leg, break the 2017 track record of Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl. That clutch performance enabled the German to overtake Pavlichenko despite the latter slider posting a slightly better time than his first run.
"Somehow I am speechless at the moment. You can only dream of a season like this," exclaimed Loch. The winner clocked a two-run time of 1 minute, 39.771 seconds, just 0.006 faster than Pavlichenko. Johannes Ludwig of Germany, the Pyeongchang Olympic bronze medal winner, was third, 0.2 from Loch.
Mathematically, Loch cannot be caught. Ludwig is a distant 320 points behind his teammate. “There is simply no way around him at the moment. You have to accept that," admitted Ludwig after claiming his fifth podium result of the winter.
Austria was held off the podium on their home track as the Gleirscher brothers ended up fourth and fifth, led by Pyeongchang Olympic gold medalist David Gleirscher. Defending World Cup overall winner, Roman Repilov of Russia, never contended this year. The 2020 World Champion has only mustered one podium result to date. He finished 11th in Saturday’s race.
Igls is the home track for more than just Austria. With virtually the entire Italian team hailing from the South Tyrol, it’s just a one-hour drive, negotiating the Brenner Pass, to reach the Innsbruck region. As a result, the 1964 and 1976 Olympic venue, can be called Italy’s home course, especially with Cesana closing and no track currently in existence. Against that background, the Italian doubles team of Ludwig Rieder and Patrick Rastner bolted to their first career victory on day when no German sleds took medals.
Rieder and Rastner grabbed the lead at the intermission and then held off the rally by brothers Andris and Juris Sics of Latvia. The runners-up used the fastest second heat to bring themselves from fifth place to second. World Cup leaders Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koeller of Austria grabbed the bronze medal, and in the process have 811 overall World Cup points. Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken are second with 700. They were fifth on Saturday and lamented their inability to properly execute the start curve as the cause of their placing. Fellow Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, four-time Olympic gold medalists, took ninth place.
After Sunday’s women's singles and ensuing sprints, just one World Cup remains next month in St. Moritz.
The Igls program concludes Sunday at 3 AM ET with women’s singles followed by the sprints in all three categories. Live streaming is available on OlympicChannel.com. NBC Sports Network will have coverage from Igls on Jan. 24 from 9 – 10 PM ET.