U.S. Olympic luge team set; Chris Mazdzer barely makes singles, misses doubles

50th FIL World Championships 2021 Luge - Day 1
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The U.S. Olympic luge roster is set. Its biggest star had to wait to learn he made the team, and in one fewer event than he hoped.

Chris Mazdzer, who in 2018 won the first U.S. Olympic men’s singles medal (silver), squeaked in as the third and final American and in one of the last spots in the overall field. He’s joined by Tucker West and Jonny Gustafson.

The women’s singles team: the previously qualified Summer Britcher, plus Emily Sweeney and Ashley Farquharson.

The U.S.’ lone doubles spot is where drama played out over the weekend. In a stunner, Zach Di Gregorio, 20, and Sean Hollander, 21, are heading to their first Olympics, securing their spot Saturday.

Mazdzer’s bid to compete in doubles in addition to singles was dashed when he and partner Jayson Terdiman crashed in a World Cup qualifying race on Friday.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for 2022 Olympics

Though Mazdzer and Terdiman are the highest-ranked American doubles team (16th in the world), this past week’s event in Sigulda, Latvia, became a race-off for the Olympic spot because no team achieved strong enough World Cup results this season to stand out.

Mazdzer and Terdiman were oh-so close to clinching an Olympic spot by their World Cup results earlier this season. They needed a top-10 finish and two top-13 finishes on the World Cup. Mazdzer and Terdiman have one 11th-place finish — missing 10th place in that race by .139 of a second — and two 13th-place finishes.

Mazdzer and Terdiman were leading Friday’s race-off at a late split when they crashed, instantly and cruelly ending their Olympic hopes.

“What pains me deep down is that the results from the season show that Jayson and I were the best doubles team to represent the US,” was posted on Mazdzer’s social media. “I promise that I gave 100%, I know that Jayson did too. I need to state that I am not trying to diminish anything the other doubles team did this season as they were also working incredibly hard.

“It just absolutely devastates me that this is how it ended. One run, we were winning… and now Jayson’s and my Olympic dream in doubles is over.”

Terdiman, 33, announced last month that he planned to retire after the Beijing Olympics. He competed in the last two Olympics with two different doubles partners, with top finishes of 10th in doubles and fourth in the team relay, both in 2018.

In 2018, Mazdzer entered the Olympics ranked 18th in the world in singles and without a World Cup podium in two years. He came away with a stunning silver medal.

Mazdzer, 33, is now ranked 23rd in the world in singles during a tough season as the only World Cup luger racing both singles and doubles. He dealt with shattered toes and as of last week still couldn’t walk normally.

Britcher is the highest ranked U.S. luger among the three disciplines (11th in the world) and the lone U.S. luger to earn a World Cup podium in the last two seasons outside of the team relay.

American lugers were hurt by there being no World Cups on North American tracks the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mazdzer is leaning toward retirement after this season, though has not made a final decision and could return for a potential farewell if there is at least one race in North America next season.

Germans Johannes Ludwig and Julia Taubitz lead the men’s and women’s World Cup standings, making them Olympic favorites. In doubles, Latvian brothers Andris Šics and Juris Šics are in the top spot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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