Ludwig wins odd World Cup luge race on a warm day in Russia

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Johannes Ludwig of Germany competes during the men's race at the Luge World Cup, a test event for the 2022 Winter Olympics, at the Yanqing National Sliding Center in Beijing, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Johannes Ludwig of Germany handled unseasonably warm conditions and won his second consecutive men’s World Cup luge race of the season Sunday.

Felix Loch of Germany was second, and Roman Repilov of Russia was third.

Temperatures were in the mid-50s Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) at race time and the ice quality deteriorated throughout the day, getting softer and slower with each passing sled. The longer that sliders had to wait for their run, the worse the track was.

Ludwig was only 20th in the first heat, which oddly provided him with a big advantage because of the conditions. That meant the leaders from the first heat — in this case, Kristers Aparjods of Latvia, Dominik Fischnaller of Italy and Riks Kristens Rozitis of Latvia — would be the last three sleds down the track in the second heat, with luge always using a reverse order of finish for that final run.

And for those leaders, going last in Run 2 was a disaster.

Ludwig finished his second run in 51.865 seconds, nearly a full second faster than his first trip down the track. That put him in the lead, and then he waited about 40 minutes to see if it would hold.

With the track getting slushier and slushier, it did with ease.

Aparjods was 18th-fastest in the second run and wound up finishing fifth. Fischnaller was 32nd in the second run, falling all the way to 28th. Rozitis was 26th in the second heat, ending up 15th.

The U.S. men weren’t immune from the bizarre swing in results because of the ice conditions. Tucker West was seventh in the first heat, 20th in the second heat and ended up 17th overall. Chris Mazdzer was flirting with medal contention after being fifth in Run 1, then plummeted to 29th in Run 2 and ended up 20th. Same thing for Jonny Gustafson: ninth in Run 1, 30th in Run 2, 24th overall.

Russia won the team relay later Sunday in the same soupy conditions, with Germany second and Latvia third. The U.S. was eighth.

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