Junior slider Tucker West led the USA contingent by earning a silver medal at the Igls Junior World Cup, held on the 1976 Olympic track just outside of Innsbruck, Austria, on Dec. 10-11, 2011. Following the race, USA Luge nominated five junior athletes who have qualified for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games that will be held on the same track Jan. 15-17, 2012.
The Americans sent a small team to the Igls race. Singles sliders Emily Sweeney and Kate Hansen, along with the doubles team of Jacob Hyrns and Andrew Sherk, remained behind in Calgary, Alberta, in order to train and attempt to qualify for the Senior World Cup being held there Dec. 16-17. Junior team Head Coach Miro Zayonc also stayed behind in Calgary while Development Coach Pat Anderson led the team in Igls.
In the Youth A (up to age 17) men’s race, West had the fastest start in each heat and kept his Junior World Cup momentum rolling with a silver medal finish, just .007 seconds away from the gold. West had the fastest time in each heat through five out of six timing splits en route to besting 41 of the 42 athletes competing, finishing at one minute, 20.906 seconds.
The race was won by Germany’s Sebastian Bley with a two-heat total time of 1:20.899 seconds. Third place went to Deutschlander Marcel Engljähringer, at 1:20.987.
“They were two solid runs,” West told USA Luge Marketing Director Gordy Sheer. “I had good runs in training so I was happy with them and happy to get a medal. There’s always time to make up. But all in all, if I had those runs again I’d be happy.”
Displaying the work ethic that won him the 2011 National Guard USA Luge Start Championship, West added, “I’ll come home and go back to some weight training and put back the weight I lost while traveling and hopefully be ready to go in the second half.”
America’s two other entrants, Riley Stohr and Levi Underwood, finished in 14th and 26th place, respectively. Stohr, with a total time of 1:21.902, showed promise and was in the top-ten until the final part of each run. Underwood, at 1:22.876, improved upon his first run and recorded the 17th fastest time in his second heat.
In the Youth A women’s race, Germany’s Karolin Von Schlienitz finished first out of 36 athletes with a total time of 1:20.932. Second place went to Austria’s Nina Prock at 1:20.980. Prock is the daughter of Austrian luge legend Markus Prock. Third place went to Canadian Jenna Megan Spencer at 1:21.237.
America was led by Theresa Buckley, who finished in 12th place with two consistent runs at 1:21.649, .375 seconds out of the medals. Raychel Germaine experienced trouble in both runs in the 5-6 curve combination and ended up in 28th place with a time of 1:24.293.
The Junior (up to age 20) women’s race featured 34 athletes and the USA’s final slider, Summer Britcher. Britcher rebounded from a rough first run to finish in 17th place at 1:21.727. Britcher lost time early in her first heat, but on her second run she showed great speed and was in fourth place halfway through the run.
Germany’s Aileen Frisch and Julia Tauitz grabbed the top two spots with times of 1:20.365 and 1:20.743. Austria’s Miriam Kastlunger took home the bronze at 1:20.817.
Complete race results can be found on the International Luge Federation’s website.
On Dec. 12, USA Luge CEO and Executive Director Ron Rossi completed the paperwork that nominated five junior athletes to the first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG), to be held in Innsbruck, Austria, Jan.13-22, 2012. Luge will race from Jan. 15-17. The YOG is for athletes born in 1994 or 1995.
According to USA Luge, the International Luge Federation (FIL) has established a five-sled maximum quota per nation for the luge races. USA Luge has earned all five slots, as the nominated athletes met the YOG and USA Luge criteria.
“On behalf of the USA Luge family, we want all of the athletes that qualified for the first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games to know how very proud we are of their hard work and accomplishment,” said Rossi in an interview with USA Luge Press Coordinator Sandy Caligiore. “Not only did they race well for themselves, but their excellent performances also allowed the USA to qualify a full contingent of sleds for the event.”
In the men’s singles, Tucker West and Ty Andersen were both nominated. They will be joined by women’s singles sliders Summer Britcher and Raychel Germaine. Patrick Edmunds will join Andersen and slide doubles. Having a full slate of athletes allows the Americans to complete in the YOG Team Relay event.
Fun fact: Andersen is 6-foot-7 and Edmunds is 6-foot-1.
The team will be led by Development Coach Pat Anderson, just as they were at the Igls Junior World Cup.
“The group’s excellent performances leading up to today’s announcement now allows us to look forward to the actual competition with high hopes for all of the races,” continued Rossi.
“Just as important, we hope each athlete takes the time to enjoy the total experience as the Austrians have a great reputation for hosting major winter sporting events, including the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, along with a host of World Cup and World Championship events in many sports over the years.”
The Junior World Cup now enters the holiday break, with the YOG being the next scheduled event.