LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) Taylor Morris’ eyes filled with tears, for good reason.
For four years, he’s carried around a burden. He missed qualifying for the 2014 Olympic team by a ridiculously small sliver of time – four one-thousandths of a second. And over those four years, he’s dealt with injuries and plenty of doubt.
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He’s finally an Olympian.
Morris claimed one of the 10 spots on the U.S. Olympic luge team for the Pyeongchang Games on Friday, making him one of four first-timers on the roster. He did it in style, too, by getting a fifth-place finish in a World Cup race on the Americans’ home track in Lake Placid – more than enough to clinch that berth that eluded him four years ago.
”It’s a long time coming,” Morris said, struggling to get words out through his emotions. ”My family’s out here, my wife’s out here, she came out from Salt Lake. It means the world to me to have them here. It’s as much of a burden on me as it is for my family. They put as much effort into this as anybody else, so I’m really excited to bring this victory to my family and my friends and the community back home.”
In all, seven of the 10 spots came down to the final day of competition in a weeks-long process to make the team. Olympic veterans Tucker West and Chris Mazdzer will join Morris on the men’s team headed to Pyeongchang. Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman are one of the two U.S. doubles teams heading to the Pyeongchang Games, while Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk grabbed the other spot.
The women’s luge spots were already decided, with 2014 bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney representing the U.S. Hamlin clinched her spot last month, and Britcher and Sweeney got theirs on Thursday night without even racing – they got locked into berths when Raychel Germaine, the only other U.S. woman who could have caught them, failed to qualify for Saturday’s women’s World Cup race.
”It takes a little pressure off,” Britcher said. ”But I’m really upset that Raychel isn’t able to race.”
West and Mazdzer were largely assured of spots before Friday, but they weren’t official. And now, both can exhale and get ready for Pyeongchang.
”At the end of the day, that feels really good,” Mazdzer said. ”It wasn’t a surprise, but it was not easy – by any means.”
Krewson’s first request as an Olympian was simple. He wanted food.
”I haven’t really been able to sleep or eat much, so I’m pretty hungry,” Krewson said.
Eating and sleeping will get easier now.
The doubles race was nail-biting for the Americans. Krewson and Sherk were 0.012 seconds behind Jacob Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza after their first of two runs Friday. That’s basically a separation of a few inches over about a mile of ice, less time than it takes to blink an eye. And it meant that the second run was basically winner-take-Pyeongchang, a one-race shootout between those two teams for an Olympic berth.
Krewson and Sherk went down first, since the second heat of sliding races is done in reverse order of finish from the first heat.
Their second-run time was 43.882 seconds.
Hyrns and Espinoza finished in 43.956.
The final margin between the sleds: 0.062 seconds. And that was all it took to decide an Olympic berth. Krewson and Sherk – who was groaning as he watched Hyrns and Espinoza take their second run – celebrated, then got huge hugs of congratulations from Hyrns and Espinoza just moments after their own Olympic dream for 2018 ended.
”I’m just thankful to be in the place that I am right now,” Krewson said. ”It’s really sad. We both train so hard, the entire team, really. We put so much time and effort into everything. I wish we could all go and compete for our country together.”
Hamlin is going for her fourth time, Mazdzer for his third and West and Britcher for their second. Mortensen and Terdiman are also two-time Olympians, though they went to Sochi with different teammates.
Morris, Krewson, Sherk and Sweeney are first-timers.
”It’s just been so stressful,” Sherk said. ”This entire first half of the season has been really stressful, especially these last few days. It’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders, finally knowing.”