WINTERBERG, Germany (WKTV) – And sports fans thought the Auburn-Alabama football game had an exciting finish Saturday night.
In the team relay Sunday in Winterberg, Germany, the United States foursome of Kate Hansen and Tucker West in singles, with the doubles team of Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman illustrated that the strong do survive. The group put down three consistent runs to collect a silver medal as teams around them faltered, crashed, had a bad start, missed the touch pad, were disqualified or all of the above.
In that mix, the German unit, winners of seven straight relays and nine of the past 10 going back to the 2012-2013 season, finished last. Such is the excitement and unpredictability of this new Olympic sport which makes its debut in Sochi.
“We just finished second. What a great race,” exclaimed West, 18, of Ridgefield, Conn., who won a gold medal in this event nearly two years ago in the Youth Olympic Games.
“We had a crazy race today,” added Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. “We had a great time and a little magic happened at the end. The Germans made a little mistake and gave us our silver medal.”
With the U.S. sitting in second place, the last two nations made unexpected errors. Canada was disqualified when the doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith inadvertently touched the start gate and it opened.
The next team, Germany, had its lead athlete, Natalie Geisenberger, execute a bad start shortly after winning the women’s singles race that preceded the team relay. The gaffes by both teams kept the U.S. in the runner-up position right behind Italy and in front of Austria.
Italy’s gold medal time was 2 minutes, 25.874 seconds. The Americans posted 2:26.380, and Austria registered 2:27.041.
“It was a great day. We had some newcomers in the team comp,” said Niccum, a two-time Olympian from Woodinville, Wash. “Tucker and Kate did a great job. Racing gets crazy here in Winterberg sometimes. People have to go from different starts (men and women begin at the doubles start) and it’s definitely challenging. Tucker and Kate did a good job to get it down the hill, and Jayson and I did our part to make it to the finish and it all worked out in the end.”
Adding to the drama was the fact that Niccum and Terdiman substituted for Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall due to Mortensen’s sore elbow.
The achievement marked the first career World Cup medals for Hansen and West, who are benefitting from developing technology by Norton and US Steel, along with runner designs by Dow and more comfortable pods by Clarkson University.
“I am super stoked to win my first career World Cup medal,” stated Hansen of La Canada, Calif. “I had a great team backing me up today and had a lot of fun in my first team comp. I’m super excited and can’t wait to bring it (the medal) home to show my whole family.”
Earlier in women’s singles, the U.S. had strength in numbers as two-time Olympian Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., and Olympic hopeful Hansen finished 6th and 7th, respectively, on the demanding Winterberg track. 2010 Olympian Julia Clukey was 13th.
“My runs were both a little sloppy in different places,” replayed Hamlin. “But I cleaned both up in different parts of the track. I’m very happy with my sixth place finish. It keeps me painfully close to that fifth place (which would verify her nomination to the Sochi team). Going to North America I’m really excited and hopefully I can get into the top five.”
Hamlin has been in the top eight every week thus far and has satisfied a criteria for Olympic team nomination. The 2009 World Champion had a two-heat time of 1:54.503. She is sixth overall with 142 World Cup points.
Hansen has two top 12 places to date and is closing in on achieving Olympic nomination status. Another top 12 would satisfy a nomination criteria. Finally able to eschew crutches after breaking a bone in her right foot in October, the 2008 Junior World Champion had a time of 1:54.605. Hansen is 11th overall with 96 World Cup points, while Clukey, with 1:54.870 for her two attempts Sunday, is tied for 13th with 84.
Germany laid claim to all the medals, as Geisenberger won for the third straight week, defeating Vancouver Olympic gold medalist Tatyana Huefner by 0.44 of a second. Anke Wischnewski grabbed the bronze medal, nearly 0.7 off the pace.
Geisenberger, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist as well as current World Champion and World Cup champion, had the fastest times of the day, clocking 56.998 and 56.459 seconds for a total of 1:53.457. She leads the overall World Cup rankings with a perfect 300 points.
Huefner, whose ailing back is improving, recorded 1:53.897 and is second overall with 200 points. Wischnewski’s third place time was 1:54.101. She is third at 186.
The World Cup tour now jets off to Vancouver for races on Friday and Saturday on the 2010 Olympic track at Whistler, B.C. That will be followed by a World Cup stop Dec. 13-14 in Park City, Utah.
The U.S. Olympic Luge Team will be officially nominated on the night of Dec. 14 at the Utah Olympic Park in a gala event that will be streamed live on www.usaluge.org.