LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) A few hundred fans were routinely chanting ”U-S-A! U-S-A!” as they stood just past the finish line of the sliding track at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Friday, in honor of any American lugers who would slide past.
Roman Repilov and Semen Pavlichenko had a rebuttal.
”Rus-sia! Rus-sia!” was their chant, with good reason. In a sport dominated by Germans, and with their nation dealing with an enormously damning doping scandal over state-sponsored programs during the Sochi Games, the Russians look as if they could be major contenders for the Pyeongchang Olympics – if they are allowed to compete.
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Repilov won gold and Pavelichenko silver in a World Cup race in Lake Placid, the best finish by Russians in luge on the track that opened nearly 20 years ago. Tucker West of the U.S. won the bronze, clinching his second Olympic berth.
The question now becomes if Repilov and Pavlichenko will join West and the other Olympians.
”It’s not a surprise for me,” said Repilov, who – like all Russian Olympic hopefuls for Pyeongchang – will need to be cleared by a panel just to have an opportunity to compete at the games under the Olympic flag. ”I knew that I’m able to win here. And I dedicate this victory to my coaches, to the whole Russian luge team and my home country.”
West’s medal was his fourth in a major men’s singles race in Lake Placid, and his sixth medal overall. He’s the seventh slider with at least six luge medals at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
”Luge is a sport of good enough,” West said, clearly relieved to clinch his Olympic spot.
In the doubles race, Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken got their fifth World Cup doubles win of the season to extend their series lead and further cement themselves as the Olympic favorites. It was also their fifth gold on the Lake Placid ice, including one relay victory.
”We’ve given ourselves an amazing Christmas present,” Eggert said. ”Week-in, week-out, we’re told we’re the Olympic favorites. Now it doesn’t scare us anymore.”
It shouldn’t: They stretched their lead in the overall standings to 154 points over countrymen Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. The only nongold finish for Eggert and Benecken in a World Cup race this season was a silver – once.
Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria were second, and Tristan Walker and Justin Snith of Canada were third.
Eggert and Benecken finished more than six-tenths of a second ahead of Penz and Fischler. The margin between the first and second sleds in the race was actually wider than the margin between the second- and 10th-place sleds.
”Lake Placid is pure rock `n’ roll,” Penz said. ”There’s no other track quite like it.”
Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman were the top American sled, finishing fifth. The women’s World Cup race and sprint races for men, women and doubles are all Saturday.