USA Luge announces 2016 award winners |

USA Luge announces 2016 award winners

Submitted by USA Luge

At its recent annual meeting held at the United States Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, USA Luge announced the winners of its annual awards for 2015-2016.

Male Athlete of the Year was Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. The two-time Olympian won two World Cup races during the 2015-2016 season and finished a career best third in the overall tour standings.

Female Athlete of the Year was Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. A member of the Sochi Olympic team, Summer captured three World Cup gold medals, tying for the tour lead in that department in 2015-2016. She held the World Cup leader's bib at the holiday break before finishing a career best fifth in the final rankings.

The Team of the Year was the Lake Placid Relay Team which took World Cup gold last December. The foursome was comprised of Olympic bronze medalist and World Champion Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., Mazdzer, and the doubles team of Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa.

Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., who dominated the spring 2016 Norton Junior National Championships and seeding race with gold medals, received the Junior Male Athlete of the Year Award.

Brittney Arndt, of Park City, Utah duplicated the results of Gustafson in the junior girls' events last March and was named the Junior Female Athlete of the Year.

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Elana Morrison, of Muskegon, Mich., was the Most Improved Junior Athlete from the USA Luge eastern program, while Michael O'Gara, of La Crescenta, Calif., took Most Improved Junior Athlete in the west.

The recipient of the Justin Matarese Award was Emily Eckert, of Wilmington, N.Y. The honor goes to the junior athlete who exemplifies Justin's qualities of 100 percent effort and never giving up.

The winner of the John Jenkins Award, which denotes a high level of passion for the sport, was bestowed upon Dave Garland, of Newark, Del. A USA Luge member since 2010, Garland became a race official and FIL Judge in short order, and has volunteered to work races and mentor other officials.

The Sam Venezia Volunteer Spirit Award went to Fred Anderson, of Marquette, Mich., a driving force behind the sport of natural track luge in Northern Michigan, making it a mainstream activity in that part of the country. Anderson has been an enthusiastic supporter, coach and administrator for some 30 years.

As USA Luge lauded these deserving honorees, attention now has turned to the upcoming World Cup and pre-Olympic season. The year will be highlighted by three North American World Cup events in Lake Placid, Whistler and Park City; the World Championships near Innsbruck, Austria; and an international training week followed by a World Cup series, both on the new 2018 Olympic track in PyeongChang, South Korea.