Chris Mazdzer

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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MORE: World Bobsled, Skeleton Championships TV Schedule

2020 World Luge Championships TV, live stream schedule

Chris Mazdzer
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Olympic silver medalist and former “Dancing With The Stars” contestant Chris Mazdzer expects to be back in top shape just in time for the luge world championships this weekend in Sochi.

“Mentally, I’m always about 100 percent,” Mazdzer said on a conference call this week. “I’m physically doing great also.”

Mazdzer, one of very few luge sliders to participate in both singles and doubles, has been dealing with a neck problem that caused him to miss the last four World Cup stops.

On the other side of the injury report, 2019 world championship bronze medalist Emily Sweeney has gone back to the U.S. to deal with a neck problem, a lingering result of a crash in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in which she suffered fractures in her neck and back.

Sweeney has been on the podium in three World Cup races this seasonSummer Britcher has reached the podium four times, including a third-place finish earlier this month in Oberhof, Germany.

Tucker West had a pair of second-place finishes in Lake Placid earlier this season.  

Mazdzer’s doubles partner, Jayson Terdiman, also has had a neck issue but is set to compete.

With several women from the perennially dominant German team, including two-time defending Olympic champion Natalie Geisenberger, out of action this season, Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova is the leader in the women’s World Cup, just ahead of Germany’s Julia Taubitz in a two-woman race for the season title.

Russia’s Roman Repilov is the men’s World Cup leader. Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken have a slim lead over their longtime rivals Tobias Wendt and Tobias Arlt in the doubles competition.

The championships will be live on OlympicChannel.com, with delayed broadcasts on the Olympic Channel and NBCSN.

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Friday 5:30 a.m. Doubles sprint OlympicChannel.com
6:25 a.m. Women’s sprint OlympicChannel.com
7:20 a.m. Men’s sprint OlympicChannel.com
Saturday 5:40 a.m. Doubles OlympicChannel.com
8:15 a.m. Women’s singles OlympicChannel.com
12:30 p.m.* Doubles Olympic Channel | STREAM
2 p.m.* Women’s singles Olympic Channel | STREAM
Sunday 5:15 a.m. Men’s singles OlympicChannel.com
9:50 a.m. Team relay OlympicChannel.com
11:30 a.m.* Men’s singles Olympic Channel | STREAM
10:30 p.m.* Highlights NBCSN

*Delayed broadcast

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Summer Britcher takes second in luge World Cup opener

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The wide-open World Cup women’s luge season started Saturday with the unusual sight of no German sliders in the top two and a massive shakeup in the standings between the two runs.

Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova came back from 13th place in the first run to win by 0.110 seconds ahead of U.S. slider Summer Britcher, who has been third in the last two World Cup seasons.

Ivanova shaved nearly a half-second off her first-run time, improving from 40.875 to 40.429. Britcher was more consistent — fourth in the first run (40.693) and eighth in the second (40.721).

First-run leader Lisa Schulte of Austria tumbled from first down to sixth. U.S. rookie Ashley Farquharson, fourth in last year’s world junior championships, was third in her first World Cup run but finished 25th in her second to take 15th overall.

Brittney Arndt, who made her World Cup debut last year, was 13th. World bronze medalist Emily Sweeney, who won the Nations Cup race Friday, had a rough first run to stand 27th before rallying to 24th overall.

German sliders have won the last 21 World Cup women’s titles. But the team is competing this year without Natalie Geisenberger, who has won the last two Olympic women’s gold medals and the last seven World Cups. Geisenberger is pregnant, as is teammate Dajana Eitberger. Five-time World Cup champion Tatjana Huefner has retired.

READ: Geisenberger and teammates out this season

On Saturday, two German sliders tied for third — World Cup runner-up Julia Taubitz and Jessica Tiebel.

The doubles race had a Polish pair, Wojciech Chmielewski and Jakub Kowalewski, in first place after the first run, but they struggled in the second and left a familiar set of German pairs atop the standings Toni Eggert and
Sascha Benecken first, just 0.009 seconds ahead of longtime rivals Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. The American sled of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman finished 17th.

Mazdzer, the Olympic silver medalist, will also compete in the men’s race on Sunday.

OlympicChannel.com will have live streaming of the men’s runs at 4 a.m. and 5:35 a.m. ET, then the team relay at 7:40 a.m. Highlights will be on NBCSN at 4:30 p.m. and the Olympic Channel at 5:30 p.m.

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