YANQING, China – Madeleine Egle of Austria won her career’s first world championship in women’s singles gold medal, and it won Sunday in the season opener on the track built for the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
USA Luge got his first medals in the World Cup season later Sunday, where the team of Ashley Farquharson, Tucker West and the double sled of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman took silver in the team relay behind Austria.
Egle was also part of the relay gold, which ended a huge day for her. She was fastest in both women’s heats and finished with a total time of 1 minute, 58.822 seconds, and got her first victory in her 49th career start.
Julia Taubitz from Germany finished second in 1: 58,928, and Austria also snatched bronze with Lisa Schulte in goal in 1: 59,350.
Reigning Olympic and world champion Natalie Geisenberger of Germany finished 26th in a field with 28 sliders for women. Geisenberger crashed in her first race, leading to the worst World Cup finish in her career. It was only the third time in her last 43 World Cup races that Geisenberger did not win a medal.
For USA Luge, Farquharson led with an eighth place in the women’s race. Summer Britcher was 14th and Emily Sweeney was 16th, while Brittney Arndt had problems in her first race and chose not to compete in the second heat.
But the relay went far better for the Americans, largely helped by competing teams like Germany and Russia having trouble getting off the field. Farquharson started with what she said was her best run of the day, West followed, and Mazdzer and Terdiman had a very clean run to give the United States a chance.
“Ashley’s first World Cup medal. We’re really excited to be a part of this with her,” said Terdiman.
Tatyana Ivanova from Russia crashed in her race and finished her country’s medal chances in the relay. The last team in the relay was Germany, who had a lead of more than a full second, a massive margin in tobogganing, but the doubles team of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken slipped and lost control just a few turns from goal.
Austria’s last time in the relay was 3: 06.953. The United States finished in 3: 07.328, and Italy finished third in 3: 07.331. Germany finished in seventh place behind Latvia, Canada and South Korea.
USA Luge selects its relay teams based on who has the fastest heats over the race weekend, meaning the doubles team of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger had deserved the right to compete in the team event on Sunday.
But Kellogg and Segger decided to give up their place to Mazdzer and Terdiman, who did not qualify for the World Cup weekend in large part because Mazdzer has missed most of the preseason due to a broken foot that is still not healed. Had Kellogg and Segger not done so, it would have meant that Mazdzer and Terdiman would not have had a major competitive race on the track before the Olympics in February.
“Big shout out to the younger guys who gave us this opportunity,” Mazdzer said.
The teams arrived in China three weeks ago for training and the first World Cup, where this stay marked the first time that most of the world’s toboggan athletes got to see the track. The track moves to Sochi, Russia, for the next two weekends with World Cup races.
But three Americans – Sweeney, Kellogg and Segger – will not join the team in Russia. They travel to Europe on Monday instead because Sweeney and Kellogg’s military commitments will not allow them to visit Russia at this time. Segger stays with Kellogg to continue training.
The State Department currently has a “do not travel” recommendation for U.S. citizens planning to visit Russia, which is one of the reasons military officials did not allow Sweeney and Kellogg to go to the next World Cup.
Sweeney is an active soldier in the U.S. Army and a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. Kellogg is a member of the New York National Guard.