Emily Sweeney and the duo of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger in action during the Sigulda, Latvia World Cup on Jan. 9, 2022.
SIGULDA, Latvia – The USA Luge doubles team of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger, showing exceptional speed Sunday on Sigulda’s traditional luge track, recorded their career best World Cup result by finishing eighth in a sprint race.
As the lone American doubles team in the sprint, they advanced with their 12th place effort in the traditional two-run doubles event on Saturday. The Sprint Cup is reserved for the top 15 from the discipline competition and is a one-heat dash where the timing begins well below the start height. The fourth and final sprint series of the season takes place next Sunday in Oberhof.
The accomplishment marked the end of their international season as Kellogg, of Chesterfield, Mass., and Segger, of Lake Placid, will return home and continue training for the remainder of the winter at the Olympic Sport Complex in Lake Placid.
The duo was eliminated from Olympic consideration on Friday and Saturday in a special race-off to determine the team’s lone doubles berth in Beijing. With no team completing a tier qualification, that spot went to Zack DiGregorio of Medway, Mass. and Sean Hollander of Lake Placid who finished one place ahead of Kellogg/Segger in Friday’s Nations Cup.
Chris Mazdzer of Salt Lake City, and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. were also removed from consideration Friday when, after holding the lead at the mid-point of the race, they crashed and did not finish.
Sunday started with Emily Sweeney, fifth after one heat, landing in 11th place in the two-run singles event, while Summer Britcher did not complete the second run. Both had already secured their Olympic nominations as did Ashley Farquharson.
All three will enter the final two weeks of the Eberspacher World Cup tour in Oberhof and St. Moritz before traveling to the Olympic Games. The Opening Ceremony is Feb. 4 in China (Feb. 3 in the United States).
The United States Men’s Olympic team nominees at this point are Tucker West and Jonny Gustafson as the team will get at least two starters in Beijing. Mazdzer, Pyeonghang Olympic silver medalist, awaits Monday’s announcement from the International Luge Federation (FIL) to see if the team gets the third Olympic berth. If so, he will be nominated for his fourth Winter Games.
Madeleine Egle has established herself as a legitimate intruder to the German women’s dynasty. The Austrian won for the fourth time this season, matching Germany’s Julia Taubitz.
Egle put together the two fastest legs of the race, totaled 1 minute, 24.192 seconds, and pulled away from Taubitz to win by .18 of a second on a seasonal, yet wintry day in the Baltics.
"I never thought I could win here," said Egle, who lowered the start record in both legs of the race. “I was totally surprised at the finish line."
The German still leads the overall World Cup chase, but Egle has made it evident that she plans to contend over the final two races and into Beijing. She also grabbed a bronze medal in the afternoon Sprint Cup, and captured the pre-Olympic event in November in Yanqing.
Russian Tatyana Ivanova, with 16 career World Cup gold medals, made a spectacular comeback from a foot injury to finish third in singles prior to winning the Sprint Cup. Ivanova crashed in the Beijing World Cup opening team relay, breaking her foot.
Natalie Geisenberger of Germany finished fourth in singles, with another Russia, Victoriia Demchenko, fifth. Geisenberger, a four-time Olympic champion, still awaits a World Cup victory this season. She’s had a trio of silver medals through 10 of 13 events.
Sweeney, of Lake Placid, will be nominated for her second Olympic Games. Her current form shows excellence at the start and acceleration down the track. That’s how her two attempts started Sunday morning. Sweeney gave back a few fractions to end the opening leg in fifth place, but in curves 10-11 of the second heat, the issues were greater on this technically demanding course, slipping her to 11th. Later, in the sprint, she was third fastest on top but did not finish.
Britcher, a Glen Rock, Pa. athlete headed to her third Olympics, was 17th at the break, but came out to make amends in the final leg. She had the second quickest start time and kept her foot on the pedal thereafter. But Britcher crashed late in the heat, causing some sled damage, and never finished.
Ashley Farquharson of Park City, Utah will make her Olympic debut next month. In Sigulda however, she did not make it out of Nations Cup qualifying thus removing her from the singles lineup and potentially the sprint race.
Team Sics keeps on charging. The brothers, Andris and Juris, both well into their 30s, have a new sled this season and they are riding it to the fountain of youth, which apparently is a stop on the way to China.
After a silver medal in Saturday’s World Cup doubles race, the Latvians won the sprint on home ice in an event that’s tailor-made for them. With the impact of the start removed - the lone bugaboo in their sliding - they can use their superior driving skills to find the fastest lines for their new equipment. It added up to a sprint track record.
The Sics brothers collected the gold medal in the single-run competition with a time of 31.157, besting their German rivals by 0.02 of a second. Toni Eggert/Sascha Benecken manned the runner-up sled, with Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt right behind them. Kellogg and Segger ended up 0.3 of a second off Sics’ time.
Ivanova bested Geisenberger by 0.01 of a second, while Egle was third, 0.03 from the winner. Taubitz drifted down to fifth place.
"My broken foot hampers me a lot at the start. Up to the light barrier after turn six I made speed," said the 30-year-old Russian, whose time of 31.241 was also a Sigulda sprint record.
Felix Loch, of Germany, returned to the World Cup winner’s circle for the first time this season in an event where leads didn’t last very long. The three-time Olympic gold medalist won silver 24 hours earlier.
"That was really fun. That's typical sprinting," said Loch. “Nobody knows how it will end."
Latvian Kristers Aparjods, the World Cup singles winner Saturday, was second by merely 0.01 of a second, and Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller, third Saturday, was also third in the Sprint Cup, 0.07 from Loch.
There were no U.S. men in the sprint field, based on Saturday’s results.
WORLD CUP OVERALL STANDINGS AND TOP US (after 10 of 13 events with points)
- Johannes Ludwig, Germany, 737
- Wolfgang Kindl, Austria, 636
- Dominik Fischnaller, Italy, 567
Kristers Aparjods, Latvia, 567
21. Jonny Gustafson, USA, 162
- Julia Taubitz, Germany, 834
- Madeleine Egle, Austria, 762
- Natalie Geisenberger, Germany, 612
11. Summer Britcher, USA, 306
- Andris Sics/Juris Sics, Latvia, 773
- Toni Eggert/Sascha Benecken, Germany, 691
- Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt, Germany, 626
16) Chris Mazdzer/Jayson Terdiman, USA, 246