WHISTLER, B.C., Canada - American luge racers Chris Mazdzer and Taylor Morris used the 2013 World Championships to set personal bests on Friday night above Whistler Village.
Mazdzer, 13th on this track during the 2010 Winter Olympics, slid to a sixth place finish, 0.34 of a second from the podium, while Morris, racing in his first World Championship event, placed 17th.
In the under 23 World Championship held concurrently, Taylor won the silver medal, 0.05 of a second behind Italian winner Dominik Fischnaller.
"One of the things we’ve talked to them about is (the need) to just let the sled run down the hill," said United States Sport Program Director and two-time Olympic medalist Mark Grimmette. "They both slid a good race. Their positions on the sled were good all week and they just let the sleds go. With better starts they’ll be in the mix with the Germans. We have the coaching and the facilities to get the job done."
In doubles Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall placed 14th, while Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk did not make the top 18 cut that would have allowed then to race in the second heat. Officially, they ended up 21st based on their opening heat time.
Although the stage may have moved from Europe to North America, the primary storyline remained the same as Germany proved as dominant on the road as they are at home.
Led by defending World and Olympic champion Felix Loch, they swept the first four places in men’s singles and finished 1-2 in doubles on a comfortable winter night. Only a bronze by Austrian doubles racers and brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger, two-time Olympic gold medalists, interrupted a complete sweep of the medals.
Loch, 23, won his fourth world title, finishing ahead of teammates Andi Langenhan and Johannes Ludwig, in that order. Loch, whose father Norbert Loch is the German head coach, was never threatened as he posted the two fastest times of the night. On the same course where he won the 2010 Olympic gold medal, he had runs of 48.133 and 48.242 seconds for an aggregate time of one minute, 36.375 seconds.
Langenhan followed in 1:36.750, with Ludwig right behind in 1:36.775.
For Mazdzer, it was a break-through race, one that saw him in eighth place at the intermission, before jumping up several places. His final time was 1:37.124.
Morris, a member of the Army National Guard who lost training time last summer while satisfying his military commitment, admitted the idea of racing in the second most important luge event after the Olympics weighed on him.
"The first run was the most anticipated run I had all season," said Morris. ’The first was solid and good to get the jitters out. (To have) a little bit of anticipation was putting it mildly."
But that emotion turned to joy when he found himself on the U23 podium.
"I was pretty excited about the silver," he continued. "I messed up a little in the second run, but not bad. Other than that, I came up a little behind Dominik. Both runs were good and I can be happy leaving with that."
Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, winners of five of seven World Cup races this season, but unable to win a medal at last year’s World Championships and having not forgotten their inability to qualify for the Vancouver Olympic team, exacted revenge by not only winning the world doubles title, but ironically doing it on the shortened and much tamer Olympic course.
Their run times of 36.347 and 36.495 totaled 1:12.842. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won their second consecutive World Championship silver medal in 1:13.042. The Lingers finished in 1:13.268.
Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Griffall, of Salt Lake City, Utah took 14th with a time of 1:13.742.
The World Championships will bring the curtain down Saturday evening when a deep U.S. ladies squad tangles with Germany, Canada, Russia, Italy and Austria. It all ends Saturday evening with the team relay.
Watch tomorrow’swomen’s race action on Universal Sports at 9:30 p.m. ET. There is also live timing and scoring at www.fil-luge.org.
Men’s singles results
Taylor Morris interview