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Tucker West wins closest World Cup luge race in 4 years

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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

Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium; contenders crash out

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle qualifying is underway with Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, taking the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98 percent,” Goepper said. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes among five selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest also missed the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin, then 15, was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi as the youngest American in any sport but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying resumes in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo., and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Slopestyle 
(women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150*
2. Devin Logan — 82
3. Darian Stevens — 81
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29

**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Maame Biney, J.R. Celski join U.S. Olympic short track team

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Maame Biney will become the second African-born athlete to compete for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics and the first black woman on a speed skating team.

J.R. Celski, a three-time medalist, is going to a third Winter Games.

Biney, Celski and Aaron Tran qualified in short track at the Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, after the 500m on Saturday.

The team is now at five skaters — John-Henry Krueger and Lana Gehring qualified on the first night Friday.

Three more skaters will qualify Sunday after 1000m races — two men and one woman.

One of Katherine Reutter-Adamek and Jessica Kooreman, the top U.S. women at the last two Olympics, is guaranteed to miss the PyeongChang team.

Neither could keep up with the 17-year-old Biney, who moved to the D.C. area from Ghana with her father at age 5, on Saturday.

Biney swept the 500m finals, taking leads from the start and holding off more experienced women. She actually fell — while celebrating after crossing the finish line in the last race.

Afterward, NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce told Biney that eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno believes Biney doesn’t know how good she is.

“People have been telling me that forever, and I think right now I’m kind of seeing it, but I feel like I have a long ways to go, but thanks Apolo,” said Biney, who won a junior world championships bronze medal last season.

Celski did not win the men’s 500m, where he is the world-record holder. Krueger did, with Tran in second.

But the fact that Krueger finished in the top two in Friday’s 1500m and the 500m means that Celski gets on the team via his second-place finish in the 1500m.

Celski won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics and another relay silver in Sochi.

He took a full season off after Sochi — undergoing hip surgery — and overcame further knee and back injuries the last two years to return to the World Cup podium this season.

Celski is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal this season (a bronze) in 24 total races.

Celski won’t be able to race the 500m in PyeongChang if Thomas Hong makes the Olympic team on Sunday.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic short track skater gets 4-year doping ban

U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Friday 6:45-8 p.m. 1500m rounds STREAM LINK
8:30-10 p.m. 1500m finals NBCSN | STREAM LINK
Saturday 12-1:45 p.m. 500m rounds STREAM LINK
2:30-4 p.m. 500m finals NBC | STREAM LINK
Sunday 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 1000m rounds STREAM LINK
1-3 p.m. 1000m finals NBC | STREAM LINK