Olympic qualifying window for Beijing is down to two weeks

by Sandy Caligiore

WINTERBERG, Germany – With less than six weeks to the Opening Ceremony for the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, the Eberspacher World Cup luge tour is set to resume on New Year’s weekend in Winterberg after a brief holiday break.

The world’s fastest athletes, 166 of them from 27 nations this week, are in the midst of nine races in a span of 10 weeks. Four events remain on the schedule, all in January. USA Luge competitors have two more World Cups – Winterberg followed by Sigulda, Latvia – to stake their claim to the 2022 Olympic team.

USA Luge will announce its Beijing nominees on Jan. 10. There is a maximum of 10 racers per nation at the Olympic Games. USA Luge nominees are subject to approval by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee which will roll out all teams Jan. 22-25.

The American luge team uses a three-tiered qualifying system to determine its Olympians. Pyeongchang team member Emily Sweeney, with her fifth-place result in Altenberg earlier this month, has satisfied Tier A. Summer Britcher, a 2014 and 2018 Olympian, and Ashley Farquharson have achieved Tier B status. Two-time Olympian Tucker West and Jonny Gustafson currently have Tier C credentials.

Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, a three-time member of Team USA, is on the verge of grabbing Tier C in singles as well as doubles with Jayson Terdiman. Mazdzer is looking to become the first U.S. slider to compete in the two disciplines at the Olympics since Wendel Suckow in 1992. In addition, the Salt Lake City resident wants to add the Beijing team relay, giving him a full plate of racing in China. That would make him the first in Olympic luge history to enter all three events.

The USA Luge national team committee has worked long and diligently to create a selection system devoid of discretionary choices.

“It is our goal in selecting all teams that racing and the clock determine who qualifies,” said Mark Grimmette, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and the team’s Sport Program Director. “Coaches discretion is always our last option after all racing possibilities have been exhausted.”

In that spirit, should any Olympic team spots go unclaimed into the final qualifying race in Sigulda, or if a tie-breaker is needed, that World Cup event on Jan. 8-9 will act as a one-race, winner-take-all shoot-out.

The Beijing Opening Ceremony takes place Feb. 4 locally, with Olympic racing set to begin with men’s singles Feb. 5-6, women’s singles Feb. 7-8, doubles Feb. 9 and the team relay Feb. 10. Beijing is 13 hours ahead of the U.S. eastern time zone.

As a result of COVID, no international spectators are allowed to attend the Games, and it is hoped that Beijing area residents will be in the live audience. Additionally, medal ceremonies at the venues in the mountains around Yanqing will occur immediately after competition at the venue. Olympic officials have opted to eschew the traditional pomp and circumstance at the Medals Plaza.

Athletes, coaches, officials and media will exist in a closed loop management system, which is essentially lodging, their competition site, official Beijing Olympic transportation and several approved locations for necessities.

The Closing Ceremony will take place Feb. 20.

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