From Pyeongchang, KOR
Feb. 11, 2018 – Coming into the 2018 Olympic Games, David Gleirscher’s best finish ever in the FIL World Cup was fourth, done this season in Winterberg. If you polled anyone who knew anything about luge about who would be medaling in the Olympics, nobody would have mentioned his name in the same breath as favorites Felix Loch, Wolfgang Kindl, and Semen Pavlichenko.
But polls don’t win medals, performances do, and in Pyeongchang the first sliding sport gold medal went to the Austrian underdog.
Gleirscher was consistent in training, and was continually near the top of the leaderboard, but his inexperience compared to those around him most figured to play a factor in the Olympics. They didn’t.
Over four runs, the Austrian never backed down, and never made a mistake, moving up from third going into the final heat to gold, at the expense of one of the sport’s greats.
Felix Loch simply needed to get down the Alpensia Sliding Center cleanly for a fourth time. In the third heat he was bested by Chris Mazdzer in the run, but carried a substantial lead going into the final run.
Loch made a mistake that so many others had made over four heats, getting sideways out of Curve 9 and putting his feet down to save the sled. At that point, however, the run was over. Loch’s gold medal streak ended at two, with Gleirscher taking over.
The win for Gleirscher was as much of a shock to him as it was to everyone else.
“It’s so incredible, I can hardly explain it. It’ll be several days before it will hit me,” he said of his win, shaking his head. “It feels like a fairy tale. The qualification period was really long, but now I’m here!”
Chris Mazdzer finishedthe race with a silver medal, the best ever for an American singles luge athlete. While his fourth run wasn’t nearly as perfect as the first three, and he fell behind Gleirscher, it was still enough to cement his name in the record books.
With his silver medal, Mazdzer joins USA Luge teammate Erin Hamlin as the only singles athletes to ever win a medal at an Olympic games.
Surprisingly, his fourth run was more relaxing that you might expect.
“That final run down was a lot of fun, actually. It’s weird, this is probably the race I was least nervous about. I felt good about the track through training, and the night that it was coldest I had some of my best runs. There was snow in the track, the ice was hard, but I knew I could do it. It didn’t feel as crazy as it probably looked,” he said.
Johannes Ludwig had likely the biggest ups and downs of the event. He came into his second run in third, and fell back to eighth. He then worked his way back up into the top five on his third run, and eventually found his way onto the podium as a bronze medalist.
Dominik Fischnaller was the big mover of the race, sitting back in 11th coming into the second day of sliding. Two stellar runs, including a track record on his final run, moved him into fourth, just out of the medals. Loch finished fifth.
Canadian Sam Edney, in his fourth and final Olympics, rounded out the top six with four clean and quick runs.
Tucker West struggled with Curve 9 in his first run, but made up a significant amount of ground in his second. Looking to try to make up more ground and possibly qualify for the Team Relay later in the week he went for broke in in his third run. A big hit and multiple skids later, he plummeted to 26th overall. Teammate Taylor Morris fared better, moving up from 23rd after the second run to 18th overall.
Canada’s men put forth a great showing in the 2018 Games, putting all three sleds in the final run. On top of Edney’s great weekend, Reid Watts finished 12th, and Mitch Malyk finished 16th.
British slider Adam Rosen finished just outside of the top 20 in 22nd with four clean runs, while teammate Rupert Staudinger finished 33rd.
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