Dominik Fischnaller, of Italy, takes a training run for the men's luge World Cup event on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in Lake Placid, N.Y. Competition begins on Friday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Mike Groll
December 04, 2015

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) Chris Mazdzer was caught off-guard by the blue-and-yellow race bib somebody handed to him on the podium at Mount Van Hoevenberg after the most significant luge race of his life.

His eyes widened and a big smile creased his face when he read the three words stitched on it: World Cup Leader.

Mazdzer and teammate Tucker West gave the United States a 1-2 finish in the men's singles race on Friday as two-time Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany faltered on his final run.

It was the first two-heat World Cup victory for the 27-year-old Mazdzer.

''I'm the World Cup leader. First time in my career,'' he said. ''I slid on this track since I'm an 8-year-old. To do it for the home crowd - this is where you train, this is where you live - to finally have it pay off is just incredible.''

Mazdzer posted a two-run time of 1 minute, 42.808 seconds to edge West by 0.033 seconds. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria won bronze and trails Mazdzer by two points in the standings.

Earlier Friday, Germany's Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the World Cup doubles race, their second straight victory to start the season. They had the fastest time in each heat and beat the Austrian team of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler by 0.382 seconds. Latvian brothers Andris and Juris Sics won the bronze.

The Germans were embarrassed a year ago at Mount Van Hoevenberg when West scored the only World Cup victory of his career. Results of sixth, eighth, 14th, 23rd and 29th represented a stunning departure from the norm for a country that has ruled the sport for decades.

Just to make sure that didn't happen again, Loch was among seven members of the German men's team who traveled to Mount Van Hoevenberg in November for a week of training to prepare for this race because the track features a higher, tricky start.

It seemed like a smart move after Loch, who has won the overall World Cup the past four seasons, led after the first heat by a comfortable 0.128 seconds.

After their solid second runs left them first and second, Mazdzer and West stood on the podium and watched, figuring the gold was out of reach as Loch, the final slider, took off and sped toward the bottom of the 20-curve course. He still had a nice lead when he briefly lost control coming out of the exit of curve 16, nearly crashing as he hit the icy wall with his right foot.

Loch righted his sled but lost too much speed and finished sixth for the second straight time on the track as chants of ''USA! USA! USA!'' echoed in the Adirondack Mountain air.

''No comment,'' Loch said afterward. ''It's such a tough loss.''

And a very big surprise.

''I was kind of shocked. He's been so solid,'' Mazdzer said. ''The problem is, here it's not over until the very end. That chicane can bite you. When he hit that wall, he hit it really hard. I knew that he lost enough time for me to win. You never want to see people do that, but at the home track you want the win so bad.''

Loch was disqualified in last week's season-opener at Igls, Austria, when his sled was found to be overweight after the first run. He's now tied for 13th in the World Cup standings, 92 points behind Mazdzer.

''I don't like to see anyone screw up. It's tough to see that,'' West said ''He's a machine. He never screws up, so for that to happen is huge for us. I know he doesn't like the track very much, so I'm going to guess he's not liking it any more right now. We got lucky.''

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