OBERHOF, Germany (WKTV) - On another warm, snowless day in the Thuringia region of Germany, USA Luge was led by Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman, who finished their season-best ninth Saturday in a World Cup luge doubles race in Oberhof.
"The sled is running a lot better. I knew where our mistakes were and how we could go faster," said Niccum, nominated last month to his third Olympic team. "Earlier this season I didn't know what to do to go faster, but today it was clear."
"It's great to come back and get a season high finish," chimed in Terdiman. "It's only ninth place and we have aspirations for better than this."
"Now is the first time we've been suited up with the new sled design that our team's been working on with Dow to get some materials into the sled," continued Niccum. "We need to get it all dialed in, get healthy, and then do the right things on the sled to see how fast it can go."
In addition to Dow's collaboration lending to a faster sled design, team sponsor Norton has partnered with US Steel on a formula for the running surfaces. The total effect this season has led to four World Cup silver medals.
"Riding this new set up is definitely sending us in a positive direction," added Terdiman, selected to his first Olympic team. "It'll take a few more runs to get ourselves 100 percent on it, but as long as we can keep on moving up in the standings these next few weeks, especially going to Sochi, the confidence will continue to rise as well."
The two Americans skipped last week's event in Koenigssee, Germany to test equipment in Park City, Utah. Niccum, battling stomach issues, and Terdiman, returned to see that they missed nothing at all: Germany has an advantage at home. They not only dominated the doubles field with gold and silver medal performances on Saturday, but then swept the top four places in women's World Cup singles.
The United States women were paced by veteran slider Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., who placed 10th.
"Oberhof has never been one of my favorite places to race, but the track was built really well and training wasn't too bad, although the track was insanely slow every day," she said. "I was just a little too sloppy on the first run. Nothing was as smooth as I would have liked. My start curve was a bit subpar and that causes a lot of time loss. Thankfully I managed to keep it together for the second. I have to be happy with a top 10 considering my mistakes."
The three-time Olympic nominee and 2009 World Champion was followed by 21 year old Kate Hansen in 12th and 19 year old Summer Britcher, 16th. All three claimed one good run on the day and one not so much. This season marks Britcher's first full time World Cup campaign. All three will represent USA Luge next month in Sochi.
Hamlin, 10th Saturday in 1:24.954, is the top-ranked U.S. athlete in sixth place with 305 points. Hansen is right behind in seventh overall at 264. The 2008 Junior World Champion from La Canada, Calif., stood eighth after one run before settling for 12th in 1:25.012.