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Germans dominate luge; Benshoof top U.S. finisher at 8th

Felix Loch of Germany celebrates his gold medal finish during the final run of the men's singles luge competition. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
Felix Loch of Germany celebrates his gold medal finish during the final run of the men's singles luge competition. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Tony Benshoof knows how to deal with disappointment as well as any of the top lugers in the world, so he can live with finishing eighth at the Olympics.

"I was disappointed with my result, but I looked up and everybody was cheering," the Minnesota native said. "That's definitely uplifting."

While he was disappointed, he called the experience "significantly" and "miles" better than his result at the '06 Turin games. Benshoof was fourth in Italy missing out on America's first men's singles medal by 0.153 second.

Benshoof entered the games with hopes of a medal, but he and many other sliders felt their hopes slip away when the course was altered after the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run Friday morning.

Course officials lowered the start eliminating a steep initial pitch.

The flatter start gave the advantage to the Germans because its athletes are widely regarded as the world's best starters.

"There is no way the Germans would have won on the original start," said Argentinean slider Ruben Gonzalez.

Felix Loch won gold by blowing away the field by 0.679 seconds. He covered his four runs in 3 minutes, 13.085 seconds. Fellow German David Moeller took silver and '02 and '06 gold medalist Armin Zoeggeler won bronze, 1.290 seconds behind Loch.

Zoeggeler was the favorite to win from the higher start area, but Benshoof liked his chances.

"The drop in the start put me at a huge disadvantage," said Benshoof, who was 2.043 seconds off the lead. "... I'm overall happy with my performance knowing that I did my best."

Winning medals two days after one of their friends died made victory bittersweet for the medalists.

"Emotionally, it's not easy for all of us," Moeller said. Moeller admits the lower start gave him and Loch an advantage, "but it was the right thing to do."

Facing back surgery in the spring, Sunday's was likely Benshoof's last shot at an Olympic medal."As far as retirement goes, it's pretty likely," Benshoof said. "But never say, 'Never.'"

Should Benshoof retire the task of winning America's first men's singles luge title will likely fall to Chris Mazdzer of Massachusetts.

The 21-year-old was pleased with his first Olympics. Mazdzer finished 13th, 2.728 seconds behind Loch.

"I would have liked to have had four perfect runs, but I'll take this," Mazdzer said.

He said watching the race was hard on his mom, especially after the death of Kumaritashvili."I'm focused, so I'm way more relaxed than all my family and friends ... I'm so calm," Mazdzer said. "... My mom must have been a nervous wreck of there. She always is at these races."

For about two minutes his name was on top of the leader board Sunday, something he thoroughly enjoyed.

"It is always a cool thing," Mazdzer said. "At least you beat everybody behind you. It's a tight race so when you come down and you see the No.1 you are pretty pumped. It's a great feeling to have."

Hill reports for The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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