Utah luger claims Olympic slot | ParkRecord.com

Utah luger claims Olympic slot

Matt Mortensen, #14, and teammate Preston Griffall slide around a turn at the Utah Olympic Park on Friday afternoon. Christopher Reeves/The Park Record

Christmas in the Griffall household will be a much more festive occasion than usual this year.

Not only does Preston Griffall, a Salt Lake City native, get a couple weeks off to go home now that the Park City World Cup luge races are over, he also clinched a spot on the U.S. Olympic team when he and doubles partner Matt Mortensen finished in ninth place on Friday at the Utah Olympic Park.

Eight years after participating in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, Griffall will again don the Team USA jersey in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. After qualifying for the 2006 Games with Dan Joye, Griffall became Mortensen’s partner the following year.

But, trying to figure out each other’s tendencies proved difficult, causing the duo to miss out on the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, something that Griffall took really hard.

"After Matt and I missed making the 2010 team, I came back home for awhile," he said. "I was a bit depressed. After we lost that race-off, I came back home and I didn’t even want to think about luge. I didn’t even watch the Olympics. I didn’t really care to watch it. I would just look at the results afterwards. My dad recorded it, and I’ve watched it since then, but I just came home and I was skiing and hanging out with my friends and doing a lot of thinking."

Eventually, he and Mortensen decided to stick with it, putting all their eggs in the 2014 basket.

"I didn’t even talk to Matt for a month and a half," he said. "It was maybe two months later that Matt finally called me. We had a pretty long conversation and decided it would be pretty weak of us to just bow out like that. So we decided we were going to do everything we could to make this next Olympics."

After losing a race-off in 2010, Mortensen and Griffall avoided the sudden-death situation in 2014, snagging a ninth-place finish with a two-run time of 1 minute, 28.080 seconds on Friday afternoon.

"We were really just trying to have two good runs," Griffall said. "Training has been going pretty well and we had decent speed. Our second run was a bit sloppy, but we were able to hold it together well enough to get the finish we needed."

Qualifying for the Olympics in Park City was extra special for Griffall, who celebrated with friends and family who made the drive from Salt Lake City to watch him race.

"This is my home track and probably the track I’ve had the most runs on," he said. "My family and some friends came up, so it’s awesome to do it here."

Now, he added, his parents know what they’ll be doing in February.

"They were pretty psyched," he said. "I think they were waiting to book some tickets to Sochi, so they were excited."

Griffall said there is still a lot of work for he and Mortensen to do before heading to Sochi, since their goal wasn’t just to qualify. They want to medal.

"I get to spend some time at home, enjoy Christmas and relax a little bit," he said. "But then it’s time to refocus. Heading into Sochi, we’ve got to test out some new equipment and see what we can do to give ourselves a chance to go for a medal."

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