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USA finishes fourth in Olympic luge team relay

USA's Matthew Mortensen celebrates after competing with Chris

USA's Matthew Mortensen celebrates after competing with Chris Mazdzer in the luge team relay final during the Winter Olympics at the Olympic Sliding Centre on February 15, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / MARK RALSTON

By one-tenth of a second, Huntington Station’s Matt Mortensen and his USA luge teammates missed a bronze medal in team relay Thursday at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

It was the second and likely final Olympic appearance for the 32-year-old Mortensen.

Mortensen and teammates Summer Britcher, singles luge silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman led the field when they finished their run in 2:25.091. But three more countries remained. And three had faster times.

Germany, in winning its second straight gold medal in the event, set a track record of 2:24.517, followed by Canada (2:24.872) and Austria (2:24.988).

Mortensen, who finished 14th in doubles luge at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, said: “Jayson and I had a pretty good run on that last run. The team as a whole did what we could to put forth our best finish. All you can do is your best.’’

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger became the first Olympian ever to win four luge gold medals. Canada won the silver, giving Alex Gough her second medal in the last three days.

“A tenth is so close after almost three miles of racing,’’ Mazdzer said. “Everyone on their team just has awesome runs. That’s something that’s really hard to beat. We were close. We were so close.’’

Speaking on NBC, Mazdzer said, “It’s a tough pill to swallow. But we’re going to fight. We’re going to come back next time even better.”

Mortensen said the relay was stressful.

“At most other tracks, the track’s a couple of more meters out, so you have time to kind of collect your senses after exiting a curve. Here you have to do almost the two simultaneously, exit and sit up and hit the pad. It’s very difficult.’’

The format of luge team relay is simple.

The execution isn’t always so simple.

There’s a men’s slider, a women’s slider and a doubles duo as part of each team, each of them getting one run down the track. At the finish line, they need to sit up — with the sled still going at basically top speed — and smack a pad that sends up an all-clear signal for the next sled to start making its way down the track (or stop the clock if it’s the third sled).

If someone misses the pad, it’s like dropping the baton in track and field. Game over.

Terdiman, who teamed with Mortensen for a 10th-place finish in luge doubles Wednesday, hailed the effort by Team USA.

“Team luge is the greatest, in my opinion,’’ he said. “Because we’re a very individualized sport, and to get to come together as a team and have that momentum together is just amazing. We are Team USA. We’re very proud of the way we perform and no matter what happens, we all left it all out there on the ice tonight.”

Mortensen, a sergeant in the Army, told Newsday before the Olympics about how special it would be for him.

“It’s a very honorable position to be in,’’ he said. “You’re not carrying yourself as just an American athlete, you’re carrying yourself as an American soldier.”

With combined news services

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