December 13, 2015

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) Less than a month into the World Cup luge season, the United States already is eyeing a single-season record for medals.

With gold medals Saturday night by Chris Mazdzer and Summer Britcher and a silver from Erin Hamlin, the American sliders are up to 11 medals - just two off the team record - after the first three stops on the World Cup tour. They had six medals last weekend in Lake Placid and also won two more on Friday night at Utah Olympic Park.

Mazdzer shrugged off neck pain, and the two-time Olympian won in men's singles for the second straight week. The 27-year-old Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, New York strained his neck during a mid-week weight-lifting session. But he gradually overcame it, posted the fastest final training run on the 2002 Olympic track and carried that momentum into the competition for his second career singles gold medal.

''It was a huge relief to come down and see that big number one,'' Mazdzer said. ''A huge part is experience. We do have a home-track advantage where we get more runs. All that experience comes together on race day.''

Later Saturday night, Britcher and Hamlin repeated their Friday singles effort by taking gold and silver medals, respectively, in the sprint race. Hamlin has now medaled in four consecutive starts, including the Lake Placid team relay, while Britcher has had a bronze and two gold medals in her last three events. It was the third time this season that U.S. lugers have placed 1-2 in a World Cup race.

Mazdzer's two wins came in different fashion. In Lake Placid, he sat in the leader's box after his second run, awaiting the final run of German leader Felix Loch. But the two-time Olympic champion and four-time World Champion hit a wall near the end of the second heat and lost the gold.

This time Mazdzer raced to the first-run advantage by 0.02 seconds over Austria's Wolfgang Kindl, and 0.04 in front of Loch. In the final heat, with lots of time to think about it and conditions changing somewhat under lightly falling snow in the Wasatch Mountains, Mazdzer grabbed the win, overcoming a tap coming out of the second curve.

Mazdzer had the two best singles heats of the night, racing the 15-curve Olympic course in 45.479 and 45.481 seconds for a combined 1 minute, 30.960 seconds. Kindl, who won the sprint gold medal later Saturday night, finished in 1:31.056, with Loch in third place in 1:31.087.

American Tucker West, who won silver last week in Lake Placid behind Mazdzer's gold-medal performance, finished ninth. Taylor Morris of the U.S. was 13th and teammate Aidan Kelly 14th.

The sprint triumph vaulted Kindl into the World Cup points lead after Mazder nearly flipped and finished 14th in the one-heat race.

The finishes by the American women enabled Britcher to take the World Cup leader's bib from Hamlin. Britcher has 325 points to Hamlin's 316 as the circuit goes to Calgary for its final event prior to the holiday break.

''I have less experience on the coming tracks,'' Britcher said. ''I feel great right now, but I need to not let it go to my head.''

Italian veterans Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber captured the sprint doubles race, just ahead of Germany's 2014 Olympic gold medalists, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, also of Germany, were third and top the standings with 355 points.

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