AP

Tucker West wins closest World Cup luge race in 4 years

Leave a comment

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Tucker West and his sled were too heavy last week.

This week, they were too good.

West won his second career World Cup luge gold medal Friday, edging Russia’s Semen Pavlichenko by the smallest margin of victory on the circuit in nearly four years. West finished two runs on his home Mount Van Hoevenberg track in 1 minute, 43.088 seconds — a mere 0.006 seconds faster than Pavlichenko, who was in position to win until the very last curve of the competition.

“Luckily, I showed up today,” West said.

His win was part of a big day for USA Luge. Earlier Friday, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany won the doubles race, narrowly beating Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman — the first Americans doubles sled to medal in a World Cup since 2010.

Put another way, Germany went five days without winning a World Cup doubles medal. The U.S. went six years without one.

“It’s been a long journey, for sure,” Terdiman said.

It was a long week for West, who was in second place at the midpoint of last weekend’s season opener in Winterberg when he was disqualified for being overweight.

He more than atoned for that Friday, adding this gold to the one he won at Lake Placid in 2014.

“It was disappointing last week, sitting in second and having that taken away from you by a technicality,” West said. “Obviously, that’s going to be disappointing. But I saw the speed was there and I was looking forward to this week, being on home ice and in front of friends and family. I was angry, I was determined to do better and I was hungry to do it.”

Wolfgang Kindl of Austria was third, 0.094 seconds behind West. Chris Mazdzer of the U.S. took fourth.

In the doubles race, Eggert and Benecken finished their two runs in 1:28.382. Mortensen and Terdiman took the silver in 1:28.545, and Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm of Germany were third in 1:28.726.

Eggert and Benecken are now 3-for-3 this season, having swept the doubles season-openers at Winterberg last weekend.

The last U.S. World Cup doubles medal was a bronze for Terdiman and Christian Niccum on Dec. 4, 2010. American doubles teams had not reached the podium in 60 World Cup races since, including sprint competitions.

“This one will taste better, I think,” Terdiman said.

The Americans didn’t even have to wait to see the scoreboard at the finish line. From the roar of the crowd as they made their way out of the final turn, they knew a medal was theirs.

“I’m really hoping this is the stepping stone for a brighter future,” Mortensen said. “This shows we can get in there. This was part of our four-year plan, to get a medal this season, and now we’ve done it early and this is fantastic.”

U.S. women’s luge star Erin Hamlin said Mortensen and Terdiman knew after last weekend’s World Cup opener, where they finished fourth in the sprint race and sixth in the doubles, they were sliding well enough to compete.

Coming to home ice apparently was the final piece of the puzzle.

“This year’s been really good for them,” Hamlin said. “They’ve had really solid training. I think they’re finally at a point where they’re pretty comfortable on their sled, really enjoying sliding and feeling good about sliding. So I think it’s exciting to see.”

The World Cup resumes Saturday with the women’s race and team relay. USA Luge swept the podium in the women’s race at Mount Van Hoevenberg last year.

MORE: Bobsled, luge, skeleton season broadcast schedule

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics

USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics