LAKE PLACID, New York (Dec. 18, 2017) -- Lugers from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program became the second and third Soldiers nominated to the U.S. Olympic Team on Dec. 16.
Sgt. Matt Mortensen, with civilian Jayson Terdiman, finished fifth in men's luge doubles at the World Cup event in Lake Placid, and Sgt. Taylor Morris secured his first Olympic berth with a fifth-place World Cup finish in men's luge singles.
Mortensen and Morris joined Army WCAP teammate Sgt. Emily Sweeney, who on Dec. 14 was nominated to the 2018 U.S. Olympic women's luge squad. They will compete in February at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
The World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, is a military detachment run by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. It was established in 1994 to support Public Law 84-11, which allows the Army to provide Soldiers -- including those in the National Guard and Reserves -- an opportunity to train for and participate in the Olympics, Pan American Games, and World Championships. The Paralympics were later added to the mix.
When USA Luge officials introduced the 10 U.S. Olympic luge team nominees, it marked the first time in Team USA history that every athlete was a World Cup medalist -- and three hailed from the U.S. Army.
Morris was the last luger to notch that benchmark when he raced to a BMW Sprint World Cup bronze medal. Morris' first career podium came 24 hours after his dramatic fifth-place performance in the singles race, which secured his Olympic nomination.
"Cloud nine is probably below where I am right now," said Morris, 26, of South Jordan, Utah. "I feel so good about this entire weekend. My family, my friends, my wife flew out from Salt Lake City. She's here. It's just so fun to do that in front of a home crowd on the last track of the first half [of the World Cup season]. I just feel amazing."
WCAP Soldiers balance athletic training with their military careers, and are Soldiers first. They represent the United States and the U.S. Army, maintain their military occupational skills, and often return to traditional military units when they are not competing or training. They foster "esprit de corps" within the Army by providing a sense of pride and ownership in Soldiers watching the Olympics and other international sporting events.
Morris, who contended for an Olympic berth prior to the 2014 Sochi Games and spent most of the past two off-seasons training in Lake Placid, is among America's best at gaining time as he moves down the track, according to USA Luge officials.
Austrian world champion Wolfgang Kindl finished first, with a time of 32.441 seconds. Germany's Johannes Ludwig was the silver medal winner in 32.655, followed by Morris in 32.665. Only the top 15 athletes from the traditional two-heat singles event advance to the BMW Sprint Cup.
"I don't know if I could have done much better," Morris said. "Obviously, I'm a little slower on the start, but that's where the sprint race comes in. It showed my sliding ability and I felt really comfortable today. What a weekend it's been for me and the teammates I'm so happy to go to Pyeongchang with. I couldn't ask for a better weekend."
Two-time Olympians Mortensen, 32, of Huntington Station, New York, and Terdiman, 28, of Berwick, Pennsylvania, finished fourth in the doubles sprint race, missing a bronze medal by a mere 0.005 of a second.
The high-octane German duo of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, owners of four consecutive victories and six gold medals in seven starts this season, easily defeated the field in 37.533. Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, of Austria, were 0.25 of a second off the pace in second place, with Latvian brothers Andris and Juris Sics, three-time Olympic medalists, taking bronze in 37.838.
A luge is a small one- or two-person sled on which one sleds supine and feet-first. Steering is done by flexing the sled's runners with the calf of each leg or exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. Lugers compete against a timer, and on artificial tracks they are timed to a thousandth of a second, making luge one of the most precisely timed sports in the world.
Mortensen and Terdiman were agonizingly close, finishing fourth in 37.843, but they accomplished their mission in Lake Placid by securing spots on Team USA for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
For more details and complete results, please visit https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Luge.
Editor's note: Reporting for this article was provided by Sandy Caligiore of USA Luge Media Relations.