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.
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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