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U.S. luge head coach steps down due to Parkinson’s

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Miro Zayonc has stepped down as USA Luge’s head coach, citing the continuing onset of Parkinson’s disease.

He has been in the top role since 2012, helping oversee a major turnaround for the Americans and preparations for next year’s Olympics.

USA Luge has won 29 World Cup medals in the past two seasons, along with three medals at this past season’s world championships.

Zayonc, 56, will be replaced for the coming season by Bill Tavares, who is being promoted to the interim role from his spot as an assistant.

Zayonc will remain with USA Luge as senior adviser to CEO Jim Leahy. He also will work alongside sport program director Mark Grimmette.

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MORE: White Castle sponsors U.S. luge ‘sliders’

White Castle sponsors USA Luge ‘sliders’

White Castle
AP
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White Castle is promoting a different kind of sliders.

The fast-food chain, known for its small, square “slider” hamburgers,” is now a sponsor of USA Luge, whose sliders are eyeing the PyeongChang Olympics in 10 months.

It is now the title sponsor of USA Luge’s off-season recruitment program, the White Castle USA Luge Slider Search.

“At White Castle, a family-owned business for 96 years, we have been serving The Original Slider for nearly a century and pride ourselves on knowing a thing or two about sliders,” said Lynn Blashford, Vice President of Marketing at White Castle, in a press release. “When we discovered that USA Luge was looking for the next generation of sliders, we knew that White Castle could help fuel their efforts and hopefully help them bring home coveted medals for many Winter Games to come.”

More on the two-year partnership is here.

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MORE: PyeongChang 2018 Olympic daily schedule highlights

Erin Hamlin wins World Luge Championships sprint title, eyes 2018 retirement

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In her likely final world luge championships, Erin Hamlin took gold for the second time in her career, eight years after her breakout world title.

Hamlin won the sprint event in Igls, Austria, by .009 of a second over defending champion Martina Kocher of Switzerland, on Friday. The shortened, single-run sprint is not on the Olympic program. The full, two-run race at worlds is Saturday.

“I’m very, very excited that I can kind of prove to myself that I can still compete with the best,” Hamlin said Friday. “To me, the big show is still tomorrow.”

Hamlin became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in Sochi, taking bronze.

She said Friday that she hopes to make the PyeongChang Winter Games, which would be her fourth Olympics, the last competition of her career.

“That’s kind of a thought, yeah,” Hamlin said. “Obviously, you always say you keep an open mind, but I feel like that would be good timing.”

Hamlin earned an upset gold at the 2009 World Championships in Lake Placid, ending a 99-race German win streak in major international competition.

She had some disappointing results in the years following her world title, the first world medal by a U.S. female luger, but has been strong in recent seasons.

She owns two World Cup victories this season and ranks third in the World Cup standings. Hamlin said she’s accomplished more than she could have imagined in the sport and is excited to venture into other opportunities after PyeongChang.

Hamlin has been joined on the World Cup podium in recent seasons by younger teammates Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney, who may lead the women’s program beyond 2018.

“Definitely feeling a little bit like the old lady around town here,” Hamlin joked. “It’s really fun to be able to see how competitive our team as a whole has gotten, so it pushes me. That’s a huge factor in me still being able to perform at this level, having the young guns keeping me on my toes.”

NBCSN will air world championships coverage Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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