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

Nathan Chen wins world title by nearly 50 points after everyone falls


Nathan Chen has the gold. It just came one month later than he had hoped (and against a much less impressive field).

The 18-year-old won the world championships on Saturday, becoming the first U.S. male singles skater to do so since Evan Lysacek in 2009 and the youngest man from any nation since Yevgeny Plushenko in 2001.

It came one month after Chen entered the Olympics as one of the favorites and finished fifth.

“I felt the pressure, but I used what I learned from the Olympics and tried to bring it here,” Chen said, adding that he wouldn’t trade this title for an Olympic gold.

Chen landed six quadruple jumps in his free skate (five clean), extending a 1.86-point lead from the short program to win by 47.63 points. Chen tallied personal-best free skate and total scores (219.46, 321.40), becoming the second man to break 320 total points after double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

It’s the largest margin of victory in any event at an Olympics, worlds or Grand Prix Final under the 14-year-old points system.

Every other medal contender fell multiple times in the free skate. Chen, going last, said he was aware of that. Yet he still went all-out with six quads rather than the five he planned before going to Milan.

“That [the skaters’ falls] actually helped solidify my approach for six quads because it gave me an opportunity to make a mistake,” Chen said.

Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno from Japan took silver despite three falls Saturday, reportedly skating through an ankle injury. Russian Mikhail Kolyada held on for bronze with two falls.

“I was not able to show my best,” Uno said, “but I did not give up until the end.”

American Vincent Zhou, third in the short program, also had three falls and ended up 14th. Jin Boyang, fourth in the short, fell five times and was 19th.

“I can’t even begin to describe how angry I am at myself for letting such an important FS [free skate] get away from me,” was tweeted from Zhou’s account, adding that he injured his back before leaving for Milan. “I’ve trained clean longs with 5 & 6 quads and I am so capable of being among the best.”

Later Saturday, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron rewrote the record books with the biggest ice dance blowout at an Olympics or worlds since the 6.0 was thrown out. A full recap is here.

WORLDS: Full Scores | Recaps | TV Schedule

Chen ended a season with six wins in seven events. That loss was costly, a fifth-place finish at the Olympics with that disastrous 17th-place short program.

But Chen rebounded not only in the Olympic free skate (highest score by nearly nine points) but also in Milan this week. Chen said he learned from PyeongChang to stop being “hell-bent” focused on gold.

His chances were no doubt boosted this week by the absences of Olympic gold and bronze medalists Hanyu and Javier Fernandez. Many medalists skip the worlds that are held one month after the Olympics due to exhaustion, off-ice opportunities or retirement.

This field lacked any prior Olympic or world champions for the first time since 1985.

Chen said before worlds he plans to continue competing next season, even though he may enroll in college. He will still work under Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutyunyan.

The third American, Max Aaron, finished 11th, landing one quad in his free skate, putting his hand down on a quad Salchow. Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, reportedly said it may have been his final competition.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

French ice dancers win third world title; first medal for U.S. champs

Getty Images
Leave a comment

French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won their third world title, one month after an Olympic silver medal, while U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue earned their first world medal, a silver in Milan on Saturday.

Papadakis and Cizeron captured their third world title in four years by breaking world records in the short and free dances. The pre-event favorites totaled 207.20 points and prevailed by 10.56 over Hubbell and Donohue. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje grabbed bronze.

It’s the largest margin of victory in ice dance at an Olympics or worlds since the 6.0 system was thrown out in 2004.

Papadakis and Cizeron’s score would have won the Olympics by 1.13 over Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who skipped worlds and may never compete again. Papadakis’ dress came undone in their short dance in South Korea, exposing her breast, though they were just .14 off their personal-best short dance score at the time.

Hubbell and Donohue became the fourth different American couple to earn an Olympic or world medal in five seasons. It’s been a breakout year for the newest stars in the U.S.’ deepest figure skating discipline.

They won their first national title in January after placing third or fourth the previous six years and were fourth at their first Olympics, giving up a potential bronze with Donohue’s fall in the free dance. Donohue also fell in the 2017 Worlds free dance after they were third in the short.

WORLDS: Full Scores | Recaps | TV Schedule

The world field lacked the Olympic gold and bronze medalists (Virtue and Moir and American siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani). Medalists often skip the post-Olympic world championships due to off-ice opportunities, exhaustion or retirement.

“It was hard for everyone keeping the energy after the Games and keeping ready and prepared,” Papadakis said.

The second U.S. couple in Milan, two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates, were fifth after placing ninth at the Olympics, where they tangled skates and both fell in the free dance.

The third U.S. couple, 2014 World junior champions Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, improved from 15th after the short dance to finish 10th overall in their senior worlds debut.

The U.S. put three couples in the top 10 at worlds for the seventh time in eight seasons.

The 2018-19 figure skating season starts in earnest in October with Skate America in Everett, Wash.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang