Last call for Olympic luge hopefuls in Utah
PARK CITY, Utah – Four luge World Cups completed with one more remaining before the holidays. At different points shortly thereafter, all nations will decide their Olympic rosters for Sochi, Russia.
Such is the scenario facing the World Cup luge elite as they take their training runs this week on the 2002 Olympic track in the Wasatch Mountains, outside the toney resort of Park City. Races are set for Friday and Saturday.
USA Luge will announce its 10 Sochi nominees, pending United States Olympic Committee approval, in a gala event Saturday night that will be streamed live on the team’s website (www.usaluge.org).
Each country can enter three men’s singles, three women’s singles and two doubles sleds. Team rosters for the new team relay in Sochi will be determined from the 10 members.
Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake and Erin Hamlin of Remsen have already verified their nominations. Mazdzer, who placed 13th in the 2010 Vancouver Games, took fifth place several weeks ago to stamp his 2014 nomination. He recorded a career-topping World Cup silver medal last Friday night at frigid Whistler Mountain.
Hamlin’s fifth place on Saturday secured her spot. She is headed to her third Winter Olympics.
Also satisfying selection criteria were Kate Hansen, Tucker West and Aidan Kelly. Hansen, 2008 Junior World Champion from of La Canada, Calif., has sixth- and seventh-place results thus far; West, 2012 Youth Olympic Games gold medalist of Ridgefield, Conn., has posted a pair of 11th places; and Kelly of West Islip has one top 15 and two top 21 results in the books. Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah, on home ice, hopes to infiltrate those ranks and force a tiebreaker.
Hansen broke a bone in her foot in an October training accident on the Utah Olympic Park course. She overcame that to put herself in an advantageous position to secure a Sochi ticket.
Another women’s singles athlete, the mercurial Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., is a junior with boundless potential. She has a World Cup eighth place to her credit this season. A top nine Friday achieves a criteria.
And there’s 2010 Olympian and veteran racer Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine. A top five delivers her to Sochi, no questions asked. There is the possibility of a race-off, pending Friday’s results. Clukey will be supported in Park City by her mother and nephew, and will also have the confidence of knowing that three years ago on this layout, she scored a World Cup fifth.
If Britcher and Clukey miss their marks, the door will open for Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn., and a three-way race-off would ensue. Sweeney won the 2013 Junior World Championship 11 months ago in Park City.
Finally three American doubles teams seek two Olympic berths. Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station and 2006 Olympian Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City have a slight upper hand as they need a top 13 on Friday to satisfy a selection criteria.
Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk require a top 10 to enter the selection mix.
Two-time Olympian Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman must nail a top five on Friday to write their Olympic ticket.