The luge season begins this weekend in Innsbruck, Austria with athletes competing in the first World Cup competition. On a conference call this week, USA Luge athletes with ties to the Northeast talked about the upcoming races and changes among the team.
The FIL Luge World Cup is the first international competition since the 2018 Winter Olympics when USA Luge member Chris Mazdzer won the team’s first ever men’s singles Olympic medal. It also begins what’s called the “quad” – the four year run-up to the next Winter Olympics.
The USA Luge team is smaller than it was last winter following a number of retirements but that has not diminished the enthusiasm of athletes in the World Cup competition.
Following his medal-winning runs in men’s singles in Korea last winter, Mazdzer plans to compete in both singles and doubles luge. “Overall I’m feeling pretty good. Yeah I’m thinking this whole going back and forth is completely possible. Consistency is getting better. The challenge is really going to these tracks where I’ve never done doubles on. So that’s the new challenge is getting my doubles up to par.”
Mazdzer is partnering with Jayson Terdiman for the double slides. Terdiman says it took some adjustment to change partners. “It was a huge change when I went from Christian (Niccum) to Matt (Mortensen) just on driving styles. And now with Chris actually it’s kind of a mixture of the two which is really nice for me. Chris is a big fan of letting the sled run which I think is great for our speed and we’ve found some great speed early on here in training and I’m hoping that just finds itself in our race format.”
Luge athletes have been training since late September, and men’s singles Tucker West says conditions have been good. “I feel like things are going fairly smoothly this year. We’ve had fantastic ice pretty much everywhere we went. Lillehammer we had track record ice. We got to Lake Placid and the track smoothed out and it got pretty quick towards the end of it. Even in Oberhoff we had track record ice. So we’re definitely hitting quantity and quality. I think most of us are well over 150 runs now which is well above what we were at last year with all the weather problems. So now we just kind of have to hope everything plays out we want it to and fingers crossed that the speed is there.”
Since it’s the first year of the qua,d Mazdzer says it gives him time to work toward new goals. “This quad’s a little different because I’m embarking on a journey to do both singles and doubles. My personal goal is to you know medal in both disciplines in the same World Cup ultimately the Olympics. And it is a couple year plan and this is something that hasn’t been done in over 30 years.”
The athletes are also working with changing technology and enhanced training techniques. Tucker West says that includes working at a wind tunnel in San Diego. “The guys there are super-helpful helping us find that perfect aerodynamic position on the sled. I mean if you think about it aerodynamics is huge for us. We go up to 90 mph so the drag on the sled is pretty huge and when we’re timed to a thousandth of a second that drag really multiplies down the track. To give you a good illustrative example when we put little GoPros on our head to watch our run it’s about 6/10ths of a second slower so you can imagine how important .aerodynamics is.”
The World Cup Luge begins this weekend in Innsbruck, Austria.