02/21 08:05 CST US, others pull out of Luge World Cup, citing safety
US, others pull out of Luge World Cup, citing safety
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
The U.S. has pulled its entire team out of this weekend's series of World Cup
luge races in Winterberg, Germany, while athletes from many nations are
protesting what they are calling unsafe ice conditions.
Austria has also withdrawn its entire team from the weekend events and even
several sliders from Germany --- on home ice, no less --- have said they are
not willing to race this weekend. The International Luge Federation offered a
compromise of sorts Friday by saying it would shorten the race distance, but
even that did not solve the intense disagreement between sliders and officials
over the safety issue.
"Based on the feedback from our athletes and coaches, we will not participate
in the Winterberg World Cup," USA Luge said in a statement Friday. "We respect
their opinions that conditions are not safe. The entire Austrian team has
walked away, as well as some Germans and Russians, including Olympic medalists
and World Cup leaders, who are also not racing."
Sliders from many nations have said there is too much ice buildup on certain
curves, which significantly increases the chance of crashing.
Training this weekend in Winterberg has been marred by several crashes and even
some injuries to top sliders. The German doubles team of Tobias Wendl and
Tobias Arlt --- one of the best and most accomplished teams in the history of
the sport --- wrote on their shared Facebook page that the risk of crashing was
"extremely high and therefore incalculable."
"Not only are track conditions less than ideal but this was brought to the
attention of the FIL and yet again we were told that everything is OK," said
USA Luge veteran Chris Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic men's silver medalist. "It is
always OK. For the last 15 years everything has been OK. ... Everything is not
All three of the top German doubles sleds have said they will not compete this
weekend. The entire Austrian luge team, including Olympic men's champion David
Gleirscher, said Thursday that it was going home. Top Russian men's slider
Roman Repilov also was considering skipping this weekend.
Gleirscher crashed during a training run, and his mind was made up right there.
"I was lucky in my training crash and don't want to take the risk a second
time," Gleirscher said.
Mazdzer was planning to skip at least one of his two races this weekend before
the American federation decided to pull out en masse.
"We are racing drivers, want to compete with others at the highest level and
love this thrill," German doubles team Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm
wrote on their Instagram page, explaining why they pulled out of a World Cup on
their home track. "But as much as we were looking forward to it here, we have
to decide just as sensibly that health is not only in the foreground and not
only of us but of all other athletes."
The de facto boycott by some athletes will impact who winds up winning the
season World Cup men's, women's and doubles championships. Winterberg is the
next-to-last race on the World Cup schedule, followed by the finale next
weekend in Konigssee, Germany.
Repilov leads the men's standings by 61 points over Italy's Dominik
Fischnaller. Tatiana Ivanova of Russia leads Germany's Julia Taubitz by 12
points in the women's race. Germany's Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken lead
Wendl and Arlt by 10 points in the race for the doubles title.
With 100 points awarded for a win, the standings could have shifted wildly this
"In our eyes, the track is not suitable," Austria coach Rene Friedl said.
Nation's Cup races, which are qualifying races for the World Cup, were held
Friday. Only five doubles sleds competed, compared to 15 that were in the
Nation's Cup doubles race at the most recent World Cup earlier this month.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports