SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 12:  Bronze medalist Erin Hamlin of the United States celebrates during the medal ceremony for the Women's Luge Singles on day five of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Medals Plaza on February 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
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Erin Hamlin, Emily Sweeney have epic day for U.S. luge

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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — It took Erin Hamlin more than a decade to collect two World Cup luge gold medals.

And then came Saturday, when she won two in a couple of hours.

Hamlin dominated the field to win a pair of women’s events, Emily Sweeney took silver in both of those races and USA Luge had a day unlike any other in its World Cup history. In all, the Americans picked up five medals, including a bronze from Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman in a sprint doubles race.

“It’s very exciting,” Hamlin said. “It was a great race day. We had perfect conditions. I’m very relieved and happy that I could capitalize on that.”

She now has four World Cup wins and 16 medals in singles or sprint events on the circuit — not including her gold from the 2009 world championships or her bronze from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Hamlin started her day with a win in the women’s singles event, the usual two-run format. Hamlin won gold in 1 minute, 29.257 seconds. Sweeney tied her career-best World Cup finish by taking second in 1:29.384, and Alex Gough of Canada was third in 1:29.584.

Natalie Geisenberger of Germany, the reigning Olympic champion, was fourth — one spot ahead of Summer Britcher from the U.S.

That was followed by the sprint events, a one-heat dash in which the clock doesn’t start until sliders have built up some speed at the top of the track. Mortensen and Terdiman placed third in that event, their time of 32.938 seconds beaten by only two German teams — Toni Eggert and Sascha Beneckenwere first in 32.838, and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were second in 32.893.

“We had a great run,” Terdiman said. “Can’t argue with a bronze medal.”

Hamlin and Sweeney were back on the track soon after, just a couple of hours after finishing up their first competition of the day. They repeated the 1-2 finish, with Hamlin winning in 32.881 seconds, ahead of Sweeney (33.034) and Germany’s Tatjana Huefner (33.040).

Saturday’s medals for Hamlin and Sweeney were the first four won by U.S. women in singles events this season. Britcher captured a bronze in a team relay at Lake Placid last weekend.

“Everything’s starting to pay off,” Sweeney said. “Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.”

Hamlin’s other World Cup wins were a sprint race at Altenberg, Germany, in February 2015, and a full World Cup last season in Lake Placid. The two wins Saturday vaulted her to No. 3 in the overall World Cup standings for the season.

“Just an awesome day,” Hamlin said.

Sweeney has been dealing with a wrist injury, and she was thrilled with silvers.

“I am so pleasantly surprised,” Sweeney said. “But also, it’s just a relief. I really needed a win for myself. And I didn’t win — but I won in my own mind, so it’s great.”

Dominik Fischnaller of Italy won the men’s sprint Saturday in 28.302 seconds, edging Russia’s Roman Repilov and Germany’s Andi Langenhan.

After this weekend, the luge circuit goes on holiday break before resuming Jan. 5 in Konigssee, Germany.

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Tucker West wins again after strange luge World Cup week

Tucker West, of the United States, celebrates after winning the men's luge World Cup race on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Lake Placid, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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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.

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Tucker West wins closest World Cup luge race in 4 years

Tucker West, of the United States, competes in the men's luge World Cup race on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Lake Placid, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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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.

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