Tucker West wins Kick-Off Start Competition

by Lauren Howe

Forgan/Kirkby and Chan/Weiler take second and third in women’s doubles 


LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Three-time Olympian and the most decorated Norton National Luge Start Champion Tucker West is now the fastest start luge athlete in the world after taking first place at the Kick-off Start Competition on Friday night in Lake Placid. 


West and his teammates joined world-class athletes from across the globe at the competition, held at the USA Luge Start Facility. The event, which was hosted by USA Luge and the International Luge Federation, kicked-off the upcoming World Cup season starting next weekend in the town.  


The first heat of the competition featured a traditional luge start. Only the top eight sleds advanced to the second heat, which used a reaction start, a similar system used in the team relay event. Each nation was able to enter two sleds in each discipline.  


Men’s Singles 

West (Ridgefield, Conn.) posted a two-run total of 7.42 seconds, beating Gints Berzins of Latvia, who finished seven-hundredths of a second behind West with a time of 7.49. Mateusz Sochowicz of Poland was third in 7.52. West’s teammate, Jonny Gustafson (Massena, N.Y.) was tied for 12th place with Anton Dukach of Ukraine and missed advancing to the next round by .01 seconds. 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer (Salt Lake City, Utah) did not compete.  


“There’s a little bit of a homefield advantage here, but I had a great summer of training and it’s been a fun kickoff event,” said West. “I knew the field would be strong and they showed up well. It’s been great to share this new facility with the rest of the world.” 


West, who earned three World Cup victories over the years in Lake Placid and Whistler, said he is looking forward to starting the season at home. “[My past success here] adds some pressure, but I’m excited to get going and it’s great to start out with this.” 


Women’s Doubles 

Team USA women’s doubles teams earned personal best starts while also securing two spots on the podium. Germany’s Jessica Degenhardt and Cheyenne Rosenthal took first place with a time of 8.22. The American duo of Chevonne Forgan and Sophie Kirkby took second place in 8.31, and teammates Maya Chan and Reannyn Weiler placed third with a time of 8.36.  


World Cup silver medalists Forgan (Chelmsford, Mass.) and Kirkby (Ray Brook, N.Y.) experienced a personal best start in the first heat with a time of 3.60. “We had a great performance today, which is really nice in this first international start competition,” said Kirkby. “Today, we matched our regular pull on the start ramp so that was happy to see.”  

“With this result today, we definitely want to carry that one onto next week for the first World Cup of the season,” added Forgan.  

Chan (Chicago, Ill.) and Weiler (Whitesboro, N.Y.) secured a personal best on their reaction time. “We haven’t had a lot of training on reaction starts, especially because this is the first year the women’s doubles will be in the team relay,” Chan said. “It just felt really good to pull our best today.” 

As for being part of the Team Relay competition this season, Weiler said they are ready. “We had an opportunity to do it at the Youth Olympics and it was such a fun race,” she said. “I think that women’s doubles competing [in the team relay] will be a little more competitive, a little more intense, but I think we are ready for that challenge and excited to race for the first time in Whistler.” 

Women’s Singles 

Latvia’s Sigita Berzina led the women’s discipline with a two-run total of 8.01. Just .01 seconds separated the second and third place spots, with Elina Leva Vitola of Latvia in 8.04 for second place, and Julia Taubitz of Germany taking third in 8.05 

Summer Britcher (Glen Rock, Pa.) just missed the podium, taking fourth with a time of 8.11, while teammate Ashley Farquharson (Park City, Utah) placed tenth. Emily Sweeney (Lake Placid, N.Y.) did not compete.  

Men’s Doubles 

Three-time Olympians Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany took first place with a time of 7.64, followed by Italy’s Emanuel Rieder and Simon Kainzwaldner in second in 7.67, and Latvia’s Martins Bots and Roberts Plume in third with a time of 7.69.  


The American duo of Zack DiGregorio (Medway, Mass.) and Sean Hollander (Lake Placid, N.Y.) placed seventh with a time 7.76, while teammates Dana Kellogg (Chesterfield, Mass.) and Frank Ike (Lake Placid, N.Y.) placed 15th.