In early December, the USA Luge Team made history at the World Cup in Lake Placid as the men took gold and silver, the women swept the podium and the team relay won their first ever gold medal. USA Luge Public Relations Coordinator, Sandy Caligiore, shares his reaction to the exciting weekend...
The sport of luge is traditionally dominated by the Germans, Austrians, and Italians, however in 2014-15, Team USA changed the luge landscape, winning 13 World Cup medals and tying their single season best. Kicking off the 2015-16 season and the start of the North American tour, Team USA has already landed six medals in two weekends - thanks to the luge deluge in early December in Lake Placid.
It may not be in our DNA as it is in Germany, Austria and Italy, yet for some 20 years, our USA athletes have been among the top four nations. I was there when USA Luge achieved its first Olympic medals in 1998 in Nagano, Japan; when Erin Hamilton won the first woman's medal and first Olympic singles medal in 2014 in Vancouver; and now with this collection of three gold, two silvers and a bronze in one World Cup weekend.
Luge is not a mainstream sport in the United States, so how and why are USA Luge athletes this good?
I see athletes that burn to compete and prepare themselves physically and professionally to do so. A blend of experience and youth created a family on the road, which is certainly helpful when they're together for months at a time, traveling the world training and competing. There is an experienced coaching staff that works together seamlessly and diligently, making sure our athletes can race at the highest levels. USA Luge, headquartered in Lake Placid, with its collection of sponsors and technical partners, props up the athletes and coaches by providing what they need despite financial constraints. We have home tracks on both sides of the country - in Lake Placid and in Park City, Utah that help our athletes prepare with the best ice conditions possible. And most importantly, a fan base of families, friends, supporters and members that are relentless in their support of a team and organization that is small by any standard, but always pulls out the stops.
Total it up, and you have the makings of a contender. After World Cup Luge in Lake Placid, that contender is now packing a heavy punch.
US Luge Update
The US Luge team concluded an impressive 2015-2016 World Cup circuit, landing 18 individual medals, three medals for overall standings, two medals in the U23 World Championships and one Junior World Championship. Chris Mazdzer took gold in Lake Placid and Park City, silver in Calgary and Winterberg and bronze in Altenberg, for a total of five medals. Teammate Tucker West won silver in Lake Placid and bronze in Segulda.
In the women's competition, Erin Hamlin placed first in Lake Placid, and second in Park City (singles and sprint) and Calgary, for a total of four medals. Summer Britcher won five medals including bronze in Lake Placid, gold in Park City (singles and sprint), gold in Calgary for sprint and bronze in Calgary for sprint. Emily Sweeney completed the podium sweep in Lake Placid, placing second.
US Luge also won the team relay competition in Lake Placid.
Final standings for the season include Chris Mazdzer, Summer Britcher (sprint) and the team relay all winning bronze.
In the U23 World Championships, Tucker West won gold and Summer Britcher took silver. The team relay placed first in Weinberg-Gustafson-Farquharson/Colaiezzi Junior World Championships.