Cesana, Italy is a picturesque commune in the Turin province of Italy.  The 2006 Olympic luge competition was held there, and more recently Luge action returned to the town for the final meet for the Luge World Cup.  The World Financial Group-sponsored USA Luge team was among the competitors and all told the team did rather well.  

Nations Cup sliding had two men’s team members in the top 10.  Finishing best was WFG-adopted athlete Bengt Walden with a time of 52.114 seconds, only 0.269 seconds off the leader, and good enough to place him fourth place overall.  Chris Mazdzer came in eighth with a time of 52.287 seconds.  The women’s team fielded one member, Megan Sweeney, who finished fourth with a time of 47.238, only 0.135 seconds off first.  Way to go, team!

In World Cup racing, USA Luge had three men’s team members competing.  Finishing was ahead of the rest was Tony Benshoof, whose combined time of 1:43.861 – only 0.746 seconds from first place – earned him fifth place..  Also sliding were Chris Mazdzer, whose 1:44.177 was good for 14th place and WFG-adopted athlete Bengt Walden came in 17th with a time of 1:44.345.

The women of USA Luge also had three competitors.  2009 World Cup Champion Erin Hamlin won the bronze at this event with a combined time of 1:33.925 – a time that was only 0.114 seconds away from the gold.  Not far behind Erin was Megan Sweeney who finished 8th with a combined time of 1:34.820.  Julia Clukey finished 17th in this event with a time of 1:36.425.

World Cup doubles featured two teams from USA Luge.  Christian Niccum and Dan Joye came in fifth with a time of 1:33.236, only 0.254 seconds off the leader.  The WFG-adopted teammates Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin finished 11th with a time of 1:34.567.

Also held in Cesana was a Challenge Cup race.  Among the men, Tony Benshoof came in 5th with a time of 51.725.  Erin Hamlin finished second with a time of 47.115 (a mere sixth hundredth of a second away from first) among the women.  Doubles teams Christian Niccum and Dan Joye finished 7th and the WFG-adopted team of Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin came in 10th.

While the Luge World Cup season is over, luge competition is nowhere near finished.  Up next is the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Look for the men to start competing on Feb. 13 and finishing on Valentine’s Day.  The women will begin on Feb. 15 (President’s Day in the US) and finish the next day.  And doubles competition takes place on the Feb. 17.  Here’s hoping for gold medals for our fine USA Luge team!

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