With seven medals so far, USA Luge is enjoying one of its best World Cup seasons in nearly a decade. When the holiday break on the international luge circuit ends Friday with the start of a World Cup weekend in Koenigssee, Germany, the Americans will be entering with a kind of momentum the United States has never experienced.

Tucker West, Chris Mazdzer and Erin Hamlin have all won two singles World Cup medals this season; the U.S. remains a threat in the team relay; and the long-struggling doubles program is showing signs of growth.

There might be a simple explanation.

"Success kind of snowballs," West said.

In fairness, there's much more to it than that.

A deeper commitment to research and sled development in recent years started paying big dividends last winter, when Hamlin won a bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics.

Optimism and caution abound.

"I think we're moving in the right direction, but I don't want to speak too soon," U.S. women's luger Emily Sweeney said. "We've had a lot of success. But we also really haven't been on their turf yet."

She's speaking of the Germans. They are tough to beat anywhere, especially Germany, where sliding sports are serious business.

With the next three World Cup weekends to take place there and six World Cup meets left on the schedule, the U.S. understands that the looming challenge is a daunting one.

Maybe, to paraphrase West, that snowball just keeps rolling.

"A lot of things are falling into place at the right time," West said. "Hopefully we'll keep up this speed the rest of the season."


Yankees add to bullpen

The New York Yankees bolstered their bullpen by acquiring David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.

Carpenter went 6-4 with three saves and a 3.54 ERA in 65 games with Atlanta last year. Shreve made his major league debut in July, and the lefthander allowed one earned run in 12⅓ innings covering 15 games.

The Braves received minor league lefthander Manny Banuelos, who went 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA in 26 games over three stops last season, finishing with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Mixed Martial Arts

Long-awaited bout draws near

Jon Jones' feud with Daniel Cormier started with a moment of perceived disrespect four years ago. It boiled over last August in a casino lobby brawl, which escalated from stares to shoves to punches to a thrown shoe.

With the light heavyweight champion and his undefeated challenger finally fighting for money Saturday night at UFC 182 in the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, those years of sniping have a focus.

Jones (20-1) and Cormier (15-0) are eager to stop talking and start swinging in their highly anticipated title bout.

"The heat between us, I don't think that's gone anywhere," Cormier said. "All the arguing, all the yelling, all the name-calling, it motivated me through my training."

Minnesota Scene

World Curling hits Blaine

The U.S. Open of Curling, a World Curling Tour event, will be held Friday through Sunday at Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine.

The tournament features 10 of the tour's top 32 men's teams, including several with Minnesota ties. Games on Friday and Saturday are at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday's playoffs are at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., followed by the championship at 1 p.m. Admission is free.


Soccer: Frank Lampard, whose preparations for the Major League Soccer season were delayed so he could remain with Manchester City, scored a milestone goal in the 73rd minute of a 3-2 victory over Sunderland. The goal moved Lampard, 36, into fourth place in Premier League's all-time scoring with 176 goals.


Ski jumping: Anders Jacobsen of Norway defeated four-time Olympic champion Simon Ammann in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, to win the second ski jumping World Cup of the Four Hills tour. Jacobsen soared 135.5 meters for the first-round lead and finished with 286 points.