Matt Mortensen went into the final World Cup luge doubles race of the season thinking he and partner Jayson Terdiman had almost no chance of reaching the top three in the overall standings.
He was wrong.
Mortensen and Terdiman grabbed a silver medal in the season finale in Altenberg, Germany, on Saturday, giving them third place in the final 2016-17 standings. It was the best finish by an American sled in 14 years and one that gives USA Luge some serious hope with the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics less than a year away.
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''Honestly I'm still in disbelief,'' Mortensen said. ''Just incredible.''
Germany's Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken capped their overall World Cup title season with another victory, finishing their two runs in 1 minute, 23.768 seconds. Mortensen and Terdiman were second in 1:24.126 - 0.041 seconds ahead of the German team of Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm.
That tiny margin between second and third was enough to vault Mortensen and Terdiman ahead of Geueke and Gamm in the final standings. The last time a USA Luge doubles team had a top-three season was 2002-03, when Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin won the points title.
''Mentally, I thought it was near impossible to regain third overall and I guess that took a lot of pressure off,'' Mortensen said. ''I set up the sled as risky as possible because we had nothing to lose, we were guaranteed fourth anyway. I am so happy it worked in our favor today.''
Mortensen and Terdiman wrecked what could have been a German sweep of the final podium spots. Eggert and Benecken finished the season with 1,140 standings points, followed by fellow Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt with 888. Mortensen and Terdiman were third with 674, three more than the team of Geueke and Gamm.
This marked the second straight season Mortensen and Terdiman moved two spots up the standings. They were seventh in 2014-15, and fifth last season.
''I am so happy it worked in our favor,'' Mortensen said.