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Those competing in World Cup luge races Saturday night got only one run instead of the customary two, because delays in getting the sleds to the track forced some schedule changes. Tucker West of the U.S. apparently didn’t mind. West won the men’s World Cup race for the second straight weekend, finishing in 50.109 seconds for his third career victory on the circuit. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria was second in 50.153 seconds, and Andi Langenhan of Germany was third in 50.243 seconds.
“He is on top of the world,” USA Luge women’s racer Summer Britcher said of West, as he draped himself in an American flag on the podium after the race. “You can see it.”
West’s win capped a strange World Cup week in Whistler, where most athletes waited around all week and were unable to train while their sleds were stuck in transit because of a snowstorm.
“This was a crazy week,” West said. West didn’t get on the Whistler ice for practice until Saturday. John Fennell didn’t even get that.
Fennell, like all other athletes who rely on Nations Cup qualifying races to get a chance at being in the World Cup field, couldn’t get on the track at the Whistler Sliding Center this week. Shipping problems meant most competitors planning to race in Whistler didn’t have their sleds until Friday night, leading to a very condensed World Cup schedule — with all training and races being squeezed into Saturday.
To make that happen, Nations Cup runs were canceled. That meant a lot of sliders were in Whistler this week for nothing.
“I feel terrible for all of the athletes who have traveled to Whistler who will receive no time on the ice and will only be allowed to be spectators,” USA Luge veteran Chris Mazdzer said.
Mazdzer didn’t like the move by International Luge Federation officials, and teammate Fennell was maybe the biggest casuality. Fennell used to race for Canada, knows the Whistler track well and this weekend was a legitimate chance for him to collect some critical World Cup points that could have gotten his first year with the Americans rolling.
Instead, he got nothing. No points, and now probably no chance of qualifying for the world championships later this season.
“I’m feeling angry, frustrated, upset,” Fennell said. “I don’t think it’s the right decision. Zero World Cup points is huge for me.”
Fennell had his sled with him in Whistler all week, while many sliders didn’t get theirs until Friday night — a truck involved in the shipping of sleds from last weekend’s World Cup in Lake Placid, New York got stuck in a snowstorm and it took several days to get the sleds rerouted and on the move again. But since so many sliders did not have equipment, Fennell and others who had their sleds were told to keep them off the ice.
“This was my best chance to do well this season and show coaches and the organization what I’m capable of, and it was a waste of time, effort and money,” Fennell said. “I’m walking away empty-handed.”
Canada’s Alex Gough walked away in a very different mood. Gough won the women’s race Saturday night on her home track, finishing the single-heat competition in 38.796 seconds. Germans took second and third, with Natalie Geisenberger finishing in 38.848 and Tatjana Huefner in 38.850.
For the U.S., Emily Sweeney was fourth, Erin Hamlin sixth and Britcher took seventh.
“This was a very interesting week,” Sweeney said. In doubles, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany prevailed in 38.542 seconds. Fellow Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were second in 38.570, and Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria were third in 38.642.