ALTENBERG, Germany - Erin Hamlin concluded an encouraging weekend in the Eastern Ore Mountains Sunday as the Remsen, N.Y. luge racer returned from Saturday’s season-high seventh place in women’s singles to lead the American relay team to a World Cup fifth place finish.
In snowy and windy conditions, the 2009 World Champion and two-time Olympian put down the third best time among women in the relay event. She was joined by Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. in men’s singles, and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and 2006 Olympian Preston Griffall, of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The American quartet was 1.5 seconds from Germany, which won its second team relay in two races this year. The event will be officially included in the 2014 Sochi Olympic program.
Germany leads the World Cup team relay standings, while the United States is sixth.
Earlier in the day, Mazdzer took 15th place in the men’s singles race as German Felix Loch, with his 12th career win, led another medal sweep for the home team. Mazdzer, a 2010 Olympian, had the sixth fastest time in the final heat, and is getting closer to exceeding his career best World Cup result to date, a 14th in January 2010.
His comments earlier in the week were prescient.
"The start for men is so flat and slow that having a competitive (start) time will be crucial for success," he remarked in the middle of the week. "If I cannot break into the top 10 on the start then my chances at having a fast race will diminish quickly."
Above: Chris Mazdzer racing inAltenberg, Germany during World Cup #3 in Altenberg, Germany
Mazdzer proved both points. His opening run start section was only 29th fastest, and he finished the heat in 25th place. But a furious rally began with a much faster second run start that ranked him 10th at the top of the Altenberg track and led to his sixth place second leg.
Mazdzer totaled one minute, 48.132 seconds. His finish coincidentally places him 15th on the overall campaign with 77 World Cup points.
Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah finished 26th in 1:48.704, and is ranked 26th with 50 points.
Loch, who lowered the track record in the first run, defeated fellow countrymen Andi Langenhan and Johannes Ludwig. Loch, the Vancouver Olympic gold medalist, won for the second time in three starts this year and for the first time in Altenberg. He registered times of 53.395 and 53.403 seconds for a total of 1:46.798.
The defending overall World Cup champion leads the current standings with 285 points. Langenhan is next at 245, followed by yet another German, David Moeller, with 197. Moeller, the Vancouver silver medalist, finished eighth Sunday.
Langenhan was timed in 1:47.003, and Ludwig, who set a start record, clocked 1:47.077.
The team relay winners loaded their lineup with weekend winners, something they don’t always do.
Natalie Geisenberger teamed with Loch and doubles winners Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt for a combined time of two minutes, 22.962 seconds.
Silver medalists were Austria in 2:23.721, followed by Russia taking bronze in 2:23.962. The U.S. time was 2:24.466, right behind Italy.
As snow continued to fall in the Sachsen region of Germany, USA Luge was packing its bags Sunday afternoon for the trek to Sigulda, Latvia. Next weekend’s World Cup series, with four competitions, will bring the tour to its holiday break.