Felix Loch, Albert Demtschenko duel in first day of men’s luge


Two of the top contenders in men’s luge had it out atop the speed charts in the opening day of competition at the Sanki Sliding Center.

Home favorite Albert Demtschenko of Russia and defending Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany were 1-2 in the first of four runs, the Russian hanging on to the lead by a mere 15 one-thousandths of a second. But in the second run, Loch answered back, beating Demtschenko by a good three-tenths of a second.

With the times combined together, that means an overall lead of .294 of a second for Loch as the final runs loom tomorrow morning at Sanki.

Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler, looking to become the first-ever Olympian to medal in the same event six consecutive times, finished third in both runs. Of course, he’s also third in the overall standings, .744 of a second behind first-place Loch. Germany’s Andi Langehan, who last year’s World Cup race at Sanki, sits fourth overall (+1.038 seconds).

Chris Mazdzer is leading Team USA after the first day. Following heat finishes of 10th and 12th, he’s 13th overall on aggregate, down 1.238 seconds to the leader.

The second and final day of men’s luge begins tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Overall standings after two heats
1. Felix Loch (GER), 1:44.149
2. Albert Demtschenko (RUS), 1:44.443
3. Armin Zoeggeler (ITA), 1:44.893
4. Andi Langehan (GER), 1:45.187
5. Reinhard Egger (AUT), 1:45.194

13. Chris Mazdzer (USA), 1:45.387
23. Tucker West (USA), 1:46.108
26. Aidan Kelly (USA), 1:46.467

Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes, beach volleyball’s new sensation, win World Tour Finals

Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes

In just a few months since reuniting, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes have become not just the best women’s beach volleyball team in the U.S., but also, arguably, the world.

Cheng and Hughes, former partners who got back together for a 2024 Olympic run, won the World Tour Finals on Sunday for the biggest title for a U.S. pair since April Ross and Alix Klineman took gold in Tokyo.

The 27-year-old Californians swept reigning world champions Duda and Ana Patricia of Brazil 21-18, 21-16 in Sunday’s final in Doha.

Cheng and Hughes have entered four tournaments since reuniting last fall and won all of them — once on the domestic AVP tour and now three international events.

They are rolling into the start of the 2024 Olympic qualifying window next week. It’s likely that the top two U.S. women’s pairs across international events over the course of the next 18 months qualify for the Paris Games.

Cheng and Hughes were previously NCAA champion teammates at USC, then the most promising, young U.S. pro team before splitting in 2018. Cheng made the Tokyo Olympics with Sarah Sponcil (lost in the round of 16), while Hughes’ Tokyo bid flamed out when partner Summer Ross suffered a back injury in 2019.

“It was a lot of the unknown and being young and kind of immature and listening to maybe outside forces and not really knowing how to deal with things as well,” Hughes said in October of their past breakup. “We’ve pretty much moved past that in our relationship. Moving forward with one another, we’re completely different players, and we’re a lot more mature. It feels like the right time. The past is past. We’re just moving forward.”

Cheng and Hughes have taken over from April Ross and Klineman as the top U.S. team. After winning Olympic gold, Klineman underwent shoulder surgery in January 2022 and last week announced she is pregnant and may return from childbirth for a “last-second” 2024 Olympic qualifying bid.

April Ross, a 40-year-old with an Olympic medal of every color, last competed in March, then withdrew before June’s world championships, where she was entered with Emily Day, with an unspecified injury. She has not announced if or when she plans to return to competition.

The U.S. has won at least one beach volleyball medal at every Olympics that the sport has been on the program (since 1996). Eighteen months out from the Paris Games, Cheng and Hughes are the best hope to keep the podium streak going.

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Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled

Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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