Koenigssee, Germany - January 3, 2017 - After a 10-day holiday break, USA Luge has packed its sleds and nine Viessmann World Cup medals for the final two months of the season, looking for more hardware when the tour resumes Thursday and Friday (Jan. 5-6) in Koenigssee, Germany.
The non-traditional racing schedule in this picturesque Bavarian resort conforms yearly to the conclusion of the 12 days of Christmas. The course sits near Kings Lake from which Koenigssee draws its name.
The track, running through the shadows created by Watzmann Mountain, the country’s third tallest peak, was ready to serve as a 2018 Olympic venue had Munich’s bid come to fruition.
The fifth stop on the World Cup tour occurs at the sport’s most iconic luge venue. From its S-curves, to the infamous bend straightaway and the ensuing, prolonged 360 degree Kriesel (circle), the sum of its 16 turns adds up to glory for some lugers and disappointment for others. Experience and confidence count mightily on this course.
There was no more evidence of these points than last winter’s World Championships held here. The American squad, in the midst of a record-breaking 18 World Cup medals, agonized over a trio of fourth place finishes, while Switzerland’s Martina Kocher, shocked even herself with gold and silver medals.
The two days of action this week include men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and the season’s second Viessmann Team Relay World Cup, presented by BMW.
USA Luge women are currently showing great depth, with Erin Hamlin leading three athletes in the top seven of the World Cup rankings. Hamlin, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion, won the final two World Cup events in Park City, Utah last month on the day that saw the U.S. set a single day record with five medals.
Hamlin’s gold medals in singles and the BMW Sprint World Cup have propelled the three-time Olympian from Remsen, N.Y. to a team-best third place in the overall standings behind Germans Tatjana Huefner and Natalie Geisenberger.
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., is in sixth place on the strength of consecutive silver medals right behind Hamlin in Park City. Sochi Olympian Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., with a pair of fourth place efforts to date, is seventh ranked.
Raychel Germaine is in 12th place on the season. The Roswell, Ga. racer joins her teammates and is exempt from Nations Cup qualifying this week.
The top American man entering Koenigssee is Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn., in sixth place. West started slowly this season as a disqualification for being overweight took him out of the points in the first two events in Winterberg, Germany.
Undaunted, West came to North America and won in Lake Placid and Whistler, B.C. on consecutive weekends. The 2014 Olympian is only five World Cup points from fourth place.
Vancouver and Sochi Olympian Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., and Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, are 12th and 13th, respectively. Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., officially a member of the USA Luge Junior National Team, is 24th in his first season on the World Cup. Gustafson will compete in Wednesday’s Nations Cup for a spot in the World Cup event.
In doubles, Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman are in the midst of their best season to date. Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., in fourth place, scored their first two medals in December as a doubles team. The twosome collected silver in Lake Placid and bronze in the Park City sprint race. They started their collaboration in March 2014.
Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich., and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah, are in 12th place as they continue to gain experience together. The same can be said for Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y., and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., who are 17th in the standings as the World Cup gets ready to resume. Hyrns and Espinoza will seek a World Cup start in Koenigssee via the Nations Cup.
World Cup action will be streamed live both days. Fans can access the call of the races here
The holiday program kicks off Thursday with doubles and women’s singles at 5:40 AM EST, followed by men’s singles and the team relay on Friday at 5:30 AM EST.
Later this month, when USA Luge competes at the World Championships outside Innsbruck, Austria, some lucky fans will win a free trip to watch the team in action from January 27-29. Enter and get details here
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org