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Tucker West wins again after strange luge World Cup week

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Those competing in World Cup luge races Saturday night got only one run instead of the customary two, because delays in getting the sleds to the track forced some schedule changes.

Tucker West of the U.S. apparently didn’t mind.

West won the men’s World Cup race for the second straight weekend, finishing in 50.109 seconds for his third career victory on the circuit. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria was second in 50.153 seconds, and Andi Langenhan of Germany was third in 50.243 seconds.

“He is on top of the world,” USA Luge women’s racer Summer Britcher said of West, as he draped himself in an American flag on the podium after the race. “You can see it.”

West’s win capped a strange World Cup week in Whistler, where most athletes waited around all week and were unable to train while their sleds were stuck in transit because of a snowstorm.

“This was a crazy week,” West said.

West didn’t get on the Whistler ice for practice until Saturday. John Fennell didn’t even get that.

Fennell, like all other athletes who rely on Nations Cup qualifying races to get a chance at being in the World Cup field, couldn’t get on the track at the Whistler Sliding Center this week. Shipping problems meant most competitors planning to race in Whistler didn’t have their sleds until Friday night, leading to a very condensed World Cup schedule — with all training and races being squeezed into Saturday.

To make that happen, Nations Cup runs were canceled.

That meant a lot of sliders were in Whistler this week for nothing.

“I feel terrible for all of the athletes who have traveled to Whistler who will receive no time on the ice and will only be allowed to be spectators,” USA Luge veteran Chris Mazdzer said.

Mazdzer didn’t like the move by International Luge Federation officials, and teammate Fennell was maybe the biggest casuality. Fennell used to race for Canada, knows the Whistler track well and this weekend was a legitimate chance for him to collect some critical World Cup points that could have gotten his first year with the Americans rolling.

Instead, he got nothing. No points, and now probably no chance of qualifying for the world championships later this season.

“I’m feeling angry, frustrated, upset,” Fennell said. “I don’t think it’s the right decision. Zero World Cup points is huge for me.”

Fennell had his sled with him in Whistler all week, while many sliders didn’t get theirs until Friday night — a truck involved in the shipping of sleds from last weekend’s World Cup in Lake Placid, New York got stuck in a snowstorm and it took several days to get the sleds rerouted and on the move again. But since so many sliders did not have equipment, Fennell and others who had their sleds were told to keep them off the ice.

“This was my best chance to do well this season and show coaches and the organization what I’m capable of, and it was a waste of time, effort and money,” Fennell said. “I’m walking away empty-handed.”

Canada’s Alex Gough walked away in a very different mood. Gough won the women’s race Saturday night on her home track, finishing the single-heat competition in 38.796 seconds. Germans took second and third, with Natalie Geisenberger finishing in 38.848 and Tatjana Huefner in 38.850.

For the U.S., Emily Sweeney was fourth, Erin Hamlin sixth and Britcher took seventh.

“This was a very interesting week,” Sweeney said.

In doubles, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany prevailed in 38.542 seconds. Fellow Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were second in 38.570, and Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria were third in 38.642.

MORE: Bobsled, luge, skeleton 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