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Matthew Mortensen, right, and Preston Griffall, of the United States, race to a ninth-place finish during a luge World Cup doubles event in Whistler, British Columbia, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)
Luge: Olympus grad Preston Griffall punches ticket to Sochi

He finishes ninth with teammate Mortensen at Luge World Cup.

First Published Dec 13 2013 02:50 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:47 pm

Park City • Preston Griffall didn’t watch the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

The last thing the 29-year-old Olympus High graduate and Salt Lake City native wanted to think about was luge, the sport that propelled him to becoming a 2006 Olympian in Torino, Italy, where he finished eighth in doubles luge.

At a glance

Luge World Cup

At Utah Olympic Park,Park City

Doubles luge top 10

1. Wendl/Arlt, Germany (1:27.326)

2. Linger/Linger, Austria (1:27.488)

3. Egert/Benecken, Germany (1:27.547)

4. Rieder/Rastner, Italy (1:27.685)

5. Oberstolz/Gruber, Italy (1:27.748)

6. Penz/Fischler, Austria (1:27.845)

7. Rothamel/Fortsch, Germany (1:27.989)

8. Walker/Smith, Canada (1:28.046)

9. Mortensen/Griffall, U.S. (1:28.080)

10. Sics/Sics, Latvia (1:28.104)

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In December 2009, Griffall and teammate Matthew Mortensen were shut out of Vancouver in a race-off at Lillehammer, Norway, which sent two-time Olympic medalists Brian Martin and Mark Grimmette to Vancouver.

Griffall and Mortensen were crushed. It took some time to process.

"I didn’t want to think about a single thing that had anything to do with luge," Griffall reflected. "I didn’t really care to watch [the Olympics]."

Four years later, Griffall and Mortensen ensured that their long-awaited trip to the Olympics together would be an event they would experience in the flesh.

The American doubles luge duo finished ninth in Friday afternoon’s Viessmann Luge World Cup at the Utah Olympic Park, a result that qualified the team for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in February.

Needing a top-13 finish out of their two World Cup runs in Park City, Griffall and Mortensen left no doubt on whether they’d be able to exorcise the heartbreak of 2009.

"It’s everything to me," Mortensen said.

Coming off a season-best ninth-place finish at Whistler, British Columbia, last weekend, the U.S. tandem matched that Friday at Griffall’s home park, the place he grew up sliding for two decades ago.

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The World Cup team yearning for a chance to make their first Olympic Games together was all smiles Friday, having moved on from those few weeks in early 2010, when Griffall said he returned to Salt Lake City to relax, get away from the sport, get some skiing in and reevaluate. Griffall said it took two months for he and Mortensen to get back in touch — a phone call the New York native Mortensen made — before they hashed out their plans for the next four seasons.

"We decided it would be pretty weak for us to just bow out like that," Griffall said. "It was at that point that we decided that we’re going to do everything we can in our power and try and make these next Olympics."

Finishing ninth among the 20 doubles teams at Park City cemented one of the many spots expected to be filled on the U.S. luge team Saturday when the Viessmann Luge World Cup comes to a draw after three days of races.

"To me, it’s just a huge relief," Mortensen said. "I really just need to let it sink in."

As for relaying any particular message to his teammate, who will be making his Olympic debut at the Opening Ceremony in Sochi in February, Griffall broached a motto for the pair to adopt.

"It’s fly-or-die there," he said. "This is our opportunity to shine, and so I’d rather go for the win and maybe get a chance at doing it — or crash trying. We’ll see."


Twitter: @chriskamrani

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