USA Luge returns to Lake Placid for start of North American World Cup swing
Team will head to Park City on Dec. 16-17
November 29, 2016
After opening the Viessmann World Cup season with a fourth place and two sixth place finishes last weekend in Winterberg, Germany, USA Luge is headed to three North American events over the ensuing weeks.
The series begins Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 2-3) in Lake Placid, before heading west to Whistler, B.C., the 2010 Olympic site (Dec. 9-10) and then Park City, Utah (Dec. 16-17), where the American team captured two Olympic medals in 2002.
After hosting the 2009 World Championships that saw Sochi bronze medalist Erin Hamlin win the USA's second world title, international luge racing bypassed Lake Placid until February 2013. On that occasion, the now-retired U.S. Olympian Julia Clukey raced to a silver medal in singles and was part of the quartet that collected another runner-up finish in the team relay. Clukey was joined by Chris Mazdzer, Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall in pocketing a team relay silver medal.
However, since 2014-2015, the International Luge Federation has brought the World Cup annually to the two-time Olympic site. The home events have provided a dose of confidence as Tucker West set a track record in winning the 2014 race, Hamlin took silver, and the West-Hamlin-Matt Mortensen-Jayson Terdiman grouping picked up a bronze medal in the team relay.
The return engagement last December was a medal bonanza as USA Luge scored six podium finishes, three of them gold. The highlight was the historic U.S. medal sweep led by Hamlin's gold, Emily Sweeney taking silver and Summer Britcher the bronze.
Mazdzer and West took gold and silver in singles respectively, while Mazdzer, Hamlin, Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk collaborated to win the team relay.
A week later at the Utah Olympic Park, USA Luge added five to the domestic medal haul as Britcher and Hamlin were the gold and silver medalists in singles and the sprint race, respectively, while Mazdzer secured a singles gold medal.
The Lake Placid tour stop this week takes place at Mount Van Hoevenberg, five miles from the village, on the three-sport track that sits adjacent to the 1932 and 1980 bobsled course.
Opened in January 2000 for the Winter Goodwill Games, the always turning, technical, 19-curve luge layout may not be the World Cup's fastest, but it is one of its most demanding. The course puts the race squarely in the hands of the driver, who hopes to convert a strong start with precise steering through sections such as the Devil's Highway, Shady II, the Labyrinth, Chicane, and finally a left-right-left combination, known as the Heart, that brings the sled to the finish line. Any loss of speed prior to turn 19 will result in a major slowdown as the sled heads uphill to conclude the run.
Athletes from around the globe were set to arrive in Lake Placid Monday night. They will walk the course on Tuesday before taking to the ice Wednesday. Each athlete receives six official training runs before race day.
Competition actually begins Thursday night (Dec. 1) at 6:30 p.m. with Nations Cup qualifying. This is for luge athletes outside the first seed who must race their way into the World Cup.
American singles racers competing in the Nations Cup will be West, Taylor Morris, Jonny Gustafson, John Fennell and Raychel Germaine. Doubles in the qualifying race will be Krewson and Sherk along with Jake Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza.
Viessmann World Cup action begins Friday at 10 a.m. with the doubles race followed by men's singles. Racing resumes Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with women's singles and the Viessman Team Relay World Cup presented by BMW.