6 more Olympians nominated after Park City World Cup doubles and women's singles races
Created on December 14, 2013 by Sandy Caligiore
Updated on December 14, 2013
Above: Kate Hansen on her way to a 4th place finish, her best-ever result
Above: Kate Hansen, center, with her mother and father. Photo Cynthea Wight Hausman
Above:Summer Britcher in action
Above:Summer Britcher reacts after earning a nomination for the Sochi Games. Photo:Cynthea Wight Hausman
Above:Erin Hamlin en route to an 8th place finish
Above: Erin Hamlin chats with NBC Sports Network
Above: Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall on their way to a 9th place finish and a nomination to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Team
Above: Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall are all smiles after World Cup #5 in Park City, UT. Photo:Cynthea Wight Hausman
Above: Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman celebrate after winning their race-off and earning a nomination to the Sochi Games. Photo:Cynthea Wight Hausman
Above Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman in action during their Olympic Team race-off
PARK CITY, Utah – The drama at the Utah Olympic Park on Friday was palpable as six United States Olympic luge berths were identified after World Cup races in doubles and women’s singles. The matter was so close that a race-off in doubles occurred after the World Cup event to round out the Sochi squad.
To take close a step further, 2010 Olympian Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine raced with her foot to the floorboard Friday, looking for a top five that would send her to Sochi. The top ranked U.S. athlete last winter finished sixth, a mere .01 of a second from fifth place on a day that saw all four U.S. women place in the top nine. This equaled the women’s team result in Lake Placid last February.
Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., second after one leg, finished a career-best fourth, securing her place in Sochi, and when Clukey’s effort came up a tick short, Summer Britcher’s second ninth place finish this season got the job done.
“I have no thoughts or feelings now,” Hansen said. “It’s been a long two months and I’m grateful to come out in one piece. I definitely learned a lot this season. I am pretty proud of myself. I never knew it would go like this, especially with a broken foot. I have a lot of thinking to do, a lot of reflecting to do.”
Hansen and Britcher will be nominated to their first Olympic teams at an official event tomorrow evening in Park City. Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., was fourth at the midpoint, slipped in the second heat, but held on to finish ninth. Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y. was eighth, .38 off the pace after securing her nomination last week at Whistler.
Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. will be nominated to his first Olympic team in doubles with sled mate Preston Griffall, of Salt Lake City, who will be competing in his second Games. By finishing ninth and posting their second top 10 this season, they achieved a criteria.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Griffall. “When Matt and I decided to slide together almost eight years ago this was the goal we had in mind. We’ve really worked hard for this over the last four years. And I’m super happy for Matt and myself. We’ve put in a lot of work and I feel like this is just the beginning. We have Sochi coming up in about a month and a half. And that’s where we want to put our best foot forward and go for a medal.”
Added Mortensen, “This means everything for me. Representing our families and our country and being a member of the World Class Athlete Program and the National Guard. This will be a huge experience for me, and especially after we narrowly missed out on the last Olympics in a race off, this is coming around full circle. We really worked hard for this.”
The veteran team posted two heats totaling 1 minute, 28.080 seconds on a day that saw Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt win for the fourth time in five starts. They totaled 1:27.326 and have a commanding lead in the overall World Cup chase.
Christian Niccum of Woodinville, Wash., and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa., needed a top five result but placed 11th in 1:28.153. When Jake Hyrns of Muskegon, Mich. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa. were disqualified in the Nations Cup qualifier on Thursday night for steels that were too warm, a race-off was necessitated. A top 10 would have satisfied a criteria, but instead the DQ dropped the team from the Nations Cup bronze medal and relegated them to spectators for the World Cup.
That race-off was held prior to the two women’s heats, and Niccum and Terdiman emerged victorious by .23 of a second over the two runs despite Niccum’s flu-like symptoms that resulted in the loss of eight pounds this week. But that was overcome by the news between runs that his one-year old daughter had taken her first steps.
“It’s just great to have a dream of going to the Olympics when I was six,” said the 35 year old Niccum. “It’s awesome to get another shot at it and working toward the goal. I don’t know what else I’d be doing.
“This is just one step. Making the national team….making the World Cup team….now making this Olympic team. When we go there and race it’s like we what we do every time in training and every race. There’s a lot of hype around the Olympics. We just block it all out and just focus on what we love to do and that’s go down the hill sledding.”
Sochi will mark Niccum’s third Olympic trip, while Terdiman will experience the Games for the first time.
“This is the culmination of 14 years of hard work, plus the last four years with Christian,” stated Terdiman. “It’s learning how to slide and slide fast. We’re finally doing it. I felt confident about our runs today. They were consistent times in the race-off. We haven’t been consistent at all this year. So it’s a great step going into the second half.”
Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger had the fastest second heat on the 2002 Olympic course and pulled themselves up to the silver medal in 1:27.488. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken also of Germany, were the bronze medal team in 1:27.547.
Teammate Natalie Geisenberger captured her fifth consecutive World Cup event and is eyeing an early end to the World Cup overall battle. Geisenberger had the two best times of the day and totaled 1:27.628, defeating Anke Wischnewski by nearly .2 of a second. Alex Gough of Canada improved from sixth to third and registered a time of 1:27.889.
Hansen’s fourth place time was 1:27.929. She is seventh in the overall World Cup. Clukey put up 1:28.003 and improved to 11th place; Hamlin had 1:29.014 and stands fifth on the season; and Britcher clocked 1:28.023.
With the final positions at stake tomorrow in the men’s race, a race-off is possible but not anticipated. Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. is verified, and Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn., has a criteria under his belt. This leaves the battle between Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y., and Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah chasing down one Sochi berth.
Saturday’s race action gets underway at 11:18 AM MST, and will be streamed live on www.universalsports.com. NBC Sports Network will televise a two-hour show from Park City on Monday night at 9 PM ET. Follow live timing and scoring at www.fil-luge.org.