Tucker West wins second straight World Cup selection race
by Sandy Caligiore
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Tucker West made it two for two Sunday afternoon as he raced off to victory in the second USA Luge men’s selection race near Sochi.
One more such event remains Oct. 16 in Lake Placid before the team announces its men’s World Cup squad that begins competition in Beijing Nov. 20-21. Inclusion on that team is the first step on the way to achieving a 2022 Olympic nomination. Selection races in women’s singles and doubles begin later this month.
The national governing body is using these races in all three disciplines to determine its World Cup team.
Sunday’s event concluded a two-week camp at the sliding center that will host the second and third Eberspacher World Cups of the Olympic season.
For the second consecutive event, Jonny Gustafson was the runner-up on the 2014 Olympic course.
West, of Ridgefield, Conn., is a two-time Olympian who made his Games debut here in 2014. His second race times of 52.338 and 52.823 seconds totaled 1 minute, 45.161 seconds. Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., seeking his first Olympic berth, was more than a second from West over the two heats.
“For training yesterday and the race today, we had good weather conditions, which translated into better ice conditions as well,” said Head Coach Robert Fegg. “We were able to do a few more equipment tests. I am very happy and thankful that we were able to start this important season so early. Everyone was eager to get on a sled and start sliding again. Looking back on this training camp in Sochi, we had good conditions for the most part, even though it was very dependent on the weather. The track crew worked very hard and helped us in many ways which was very much appreciated.”
It will be more of the same next week in Lake Placid as warm fall weather across the Northeast – low 70s to start the week, then dropping into the 60s - will greet the sliders. USA Luge will hit the ice around 7:45 AM to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and better ice.
These selection races will not include 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer. The Salt Lake City resident broke his foot 12 days ago on this track and underwent surgery on Wednesday. Upon recovering, Mazdzer has resumed his physical training.
The American World Cup squad will produce the 10 nominees for February’s Olympic Games. Those competitors will be announced in mid-January after the seventh of nine meets on the World Cup tour.
Women and doubles selection competitions are slated for Oct. 16 in Lake Placid, followed by a pair in Park City, Utah on Oct. 24-25. The team will train at the Utah Olympic Park, site of two U.S. Olympic doubles medals in 2002, from Oct. 20-25.
The team’s Lake Placid and Park City training camps will be their lone appearances in the U.S. prior to the Beijing Winter Games.
Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., a member of the 2014 and 2018 Olympic teams, is pre-qualified for the World Cup team as a result of her sixth-place finish in the 2021 World Championships and is exempt from the selection process. The women’s field will include 2018 Olympian Emily Sweeney of Lake Placid, the Park City duo of Brittney Arndt and Ashley Farquharson, as well as Chevonne Forgan of Chelmsford, Mass. The latter three sliders are eyeing their first Olympic teams.
In doubles, three sleds will be comprised of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger, Zack DiGregorio and Sean Hollander, and Forgan with Sophie Kirkby of Ray Brook, N.Y. They, too, are battling for their initial Olympic berths.
As a result of his injury, Mazdzer and doubles partner Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., are sidelined. Mazdzer has been on three Olympic teams dating back to 2010, while Terdiman competed in 2014 and 2018. Mazdzer would be Terdiman’s third doubles teammate in as many Games. Mazdzer is hopeful that he can resume sliding in about two weeks.
After the Park City training camp, the athletes will get a respite prior to setting out on their extensive travel and competition schedules that resume in Beijing in November and culminate at the Olympic site in February.