‘Selfless acts’ help US win silver in relay at luge worlds

There were four silver medals awaiting USA Luge after the team relay at the world championships, one for each of the American sliders who delivered a second-place finish behind powerhouse Germany.

They could have used seven.

The U.S. squad of Erin Hamlin, Tucker West and the doubles entry of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman capped a stellar weekend for the Americans on Sunday with that silver-medal showing, with Hamlin winning her third medal in three days to finish off the greatest showing ever by a USA Luge slider in a world championships.

But West, Mortensen and Terdiman only got into the relay because teammates gave up their rightful spots — with hopes that more experienced sliders would give the U.S. a better chance of winning a medal. Taylor Morris gave up his spot to West, while the doubles team of Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk yielded their place to Mortensen and Terdiman.

It worked wonders for the Americans. And those who actually got the medals were humbled by the gesture of teammates.

“That was one of the most selfless acts I’ve ever seen in my life,” Terdiman said before the team departed the world championships site at Innsbruck, Austria, to head to Germany and the resumption of World Cup racing this coming weekend. “I said to the guys multiple times ... that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank them for the opportunity.”

In luge, a team relay entry is made up of four sliders — one man, one woman and one doubles duo. And the way USA Luge picks its relay teams is simply by choosing those with the fastest runs over the course of a weekend.

It takes all the politics out of the equation. There’s no picking favorites. Best time wins.

West struggled in the men’s competition, and Mortensen and Terdiman couldn’t overcome some mistakes in the doubles event. As such, they didn’t qualify for the relay — until teammates gave them the opportunity.

“Without those guys making those honorable decisions, we would not have been able to come together as a team and do what we did,” Mortensen said. “How it played out with our fellow athletes giving us these runs and then getting a medal, brings the team together. They made decisions they thought were best for the team, and then for it to work out ... I’m very grateful for what they did.”

West has one of the best starts in the world, which is critical in a relay. He said that’s why Morris elected to step aside, and West was more than thankful for the chance to atone for only finishing 15th in the men’s competition.

“I took a little anger into the run,” West said. “And it seemed to pay off.”