USA Luge hopeful heading into world championships

Sports

Summer Britcher from the USA cheers at the finish line after finishing third at the luge world cup in Oberhof, Germany, Sunday, Feb.2, 2020. (Martin Schutt/dpa via AP)

USA Luge has been waiting for its breakthrough moment this season. If recent results are any indication, the team might be peaking at the right time.

Luge’s world championships start Friday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia — the track used for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. And the Americans are coming off a silver medal in the team relay at the most recent World Cup race in Oberhof, Germany two weeks ago in perhaps their most significant result of the season.

They’re hoping that momentum carries over into the biggest races of the year.

“We really needed it,” longtime USA Luge women’s slider Summer Britcher said. “Actually, we all got together, and we voted that if we didn’t get on the podium in Oberhof we were all going to quit and go home.”

She was kidding on the going-home part. But saying the result was needed, that was true.

The Americans have won 10 medals in World Cup races this winter — eight of silver, two bronze. The U.S. has only three golds in the history of world championship competition: Wendel Suckow winning the men’s title in 1993; Erin Hamlin taking the women’s title in Lake Placid, New York in 2009; and Hamlin again winning the women’s sprint championship at Innsbruck three years ago.

But even without a win this season, the U.S. has been in the mix often enough behind the powerhouse Germans — always the favorites to win just about everything in luge — to believe that great results like that team relay silver in Oberhof is an indicator of what’s ahead.

“It’s always motivating to go into worlds on a high note,” Britcher said.

She might be the best U.S. hope for a medal at worlds this weekend. Injuries, inconsistency and inexperience have been a problem for the rest of the team this season — with Emily Sweeney, a world championship medalist in the sprint last year, recovering at home in Lake Placid from the crash two years ago at the Pyeongchang Olympics that left her with a broken back and neck.

Consider the seasonlong plight of the U.S. doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman.

Mazdzer has been fighting off injuries for much of the season. They had trouble with a new sled that they thought would work wonders for them. That forced them to switch back to an older sled, which got lost in transit on the way to Russia last week. And now Terdiman is dealing with injury concerns.

But Mazdzer said he’s feeling better of late, and Terdiman wasn’t overly worried about his neck strain. And they’ve been through the pressure cooker of a world championships plenty of times, so so they know what to expect this weekend.

“We’re back on something that we’re confident with, that we know how it drives,” said Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist in singles who is in his second season of being the lone slider doing both singles and doubles at the World Cup level. “And so far, it’s going pretty well.”

The schedule has sprint championships for men, women and doubles sliders on Friday. On Saturday, it’ll be the doubles and women’s overall title races, followed Sunday by the men’s title race and a team relay.

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