World Cup Tour heads home for the holidays
SIGULDA, Latvia - The United States Luge Team concluded the fourth weekend of the World Cup schedule Sunday in Sigulda, Latvia with a fifth place result in the team relay, while in men’s singles, Chris Mazdzer placed 19th and Taylor Morris 23rd.
Morris and Mazdzer stood 21st and 22nd, respectively, after the first run. Their fortunes, however, went in opposite directions after the break. As he did last week in Altenberg, Germany when he recorded the sixth best final heat, Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. improved five places to 19th, while Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, who spent much of the off-season satisfying his Army National Guard commitment, dropped to 26th.
The team relay is among the latest events added to the 2014 Olympic program.
Erin Hamlin, leading the U.S. efforts the past three weeks, had the third fastest women’s time of the team relay. The two-time Olympian and 2009 World Champion from Remsen, N.Y. was joined by 2010 Olympian Mazdzer 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 duo of Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall strike the pad to stop the clock during the team relay event in Sigulda, Latvia on December 16. AP Photo.
The quartet totaled two minutes, 17.149 seconds, finishing 1.37 seconds from Germany which took its third straight relay event this season. The winning time of 2:15.778 posted by Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt set a track record in the process.
All three achieved individual success over the weekend - Geisenberger, the World Cup women’s leader, took silver Saturday in the singles race; Loch, topping the men’s World Cup chart, earlier Sunday collected a bronze; and the Wendl-Arlt tandem captured their fourth straight doubles competition 24 hours earlier. The group’s margin of victory over Italy was more than 0.5 of a second, with Russia third, over one second from the lead.
Germany leads the season-long World Cup standings with a perfect 300 points after three of six such events on the calendar. Italy is second at 215, with Russia next at 195.
The United States is fifth at 156 points.
The last day of the 2012 World Cup schedule brought some surprises as Loch, the first run men’s singles leader by over 0.1 of a second, and seemingly headed to victory with fast split times in the second attempt, was sabotaged by Sigulda’s final turns and "stumbled" down to the bronze medal.
The Latvian audience was thrilled to see Albert Demschenko, of Russia, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, take the Sigulda gold medal at the age of 41. The veteran stood second after one heat, before throwing down the best time of the second leg. He clocked 48.756 and 48.849 seconds for a combined 1:37.605. In winning for the 15th time, Demschenko ended a German men’s winning streak that covered 12 races and nearly two years.
It was a day where experience mattered and Italy’s legendary Armin Zoeggeler, with two Olympic titles, six World Championships and the Sigulda track record (Feb. 2011) on his resume, was happy with the silver just three weeks ahead of his 39th birthday. Zoeggeler’s second run, together with Loch’s uncharacteristic error at the exit of curve 15, enabled the Italian to move into second place ahead of Loch in 1:37.647.
The defending Olympic and World Champion, who afterward said "the mistake was so stupid it almost makes me laugh", had a bronze medal time of 1:37.708.
Loch’s tour-leading World Cup total is 355 points, followed by teammate Andi Langenhan, fifth on Sunday, at 300. Demschenko improved to third place overall at 257.
Mazdzer’s two runs totaled 1:38.738. He’s in 19th place at 99 points. Morris finished in 1:39.161 as he continues to add experience to a young career. Morris is ranked 25th at 68 points.
The tour now takes its traditional two week break and will ring in the New Year in Bavaria on Jan. 5-6 to kick-off the second half push that leads to the World Championships in Whistler, B.C., followed by a World Cup event in Lake Placid, N.Y., both in early February.
At the end of that month, the much-anticipated pre-test event, which also serves as the ninth and final World Cup tour stop, concludes the winter in Sochi, Russia.
Complete team relay results and men’s singles results.