The U.S. luge team is in Koenigssee, Germany, this weekend for the 46th FIL World Championships. Before the action begins on Friday, here are 14 reasons to get excited for the fast-paced action.
1. Summer Britcher Emerged As A Leader
After qualifying for her first Olympic Winter Games in 2014, U.S. sensation Summer Britcher has taken the world by storm this season. She emerged as the top-ranked woman on the world cup tour in December before slipping to third place. A gold medalist in team relay at the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games and 15th-place finisher at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Britcher is chasing after a gold medal this week in Germany.
2. Can Hamlin Make History?
Attempting to become the first American woman to win a world championship medal outside of the United States, three-time Olympian Erin Hamlin missed history by less than half a second in 2015 in Latvia, where she finished fourth. She’ll try to make history this week in Koenigssee. Hamlin won a world championship in 2009 on her home track in Lake Placid, New York. She also became the first singles slider to win an Olympic medal when she won bronze in 2014 in Sochi.
3. Think American Sweep
It might not be as crazy as you’d think. Erin Hamlin led a one-two-three U.S. sweep in women’s luge on the world cup tour in December in Lake Placid. Also on the podium were Emily Sweeney and 2014 Olympian Summer Britcher. It was the first-ever singles podium sweep by American lugers. All three are competing in Koenigssee, and all three are among the top seven in the world cup standings.
4. Team USA’s Record Season
The USA Luge team arrives at the world championships with 16 world cup medals for the first time in history. The team has medaled in four of six world cups entering the competition in Koenigssee. At different parts of the season, the leader’s bib has been worn by Summer Britcher and Erin Hamlin on the women’s side, and Chris Mazdzer on the men’s side.
5. Stacked U.S. Lineup
USA Luge will have four athletes in each of the women’s singles, men’s singles and doubles disciplines. Of the 12 athletes, seven of them are 2014 Olympic teammates. In addition to Olympians Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher, Emily Sweeney and world championships rookie Raychel Germaine will compete in women’s singles. In men’s singles, Olympians Chris Mazdzer, Tucker West and Aidan Kelly are joined by Taylor Morris. The two doubles teams are 2014 Olympians Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, and the newer team of Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk.
6. Backyard Luger
Tucker West, a 2012 Youth Olympian who made his Olympic debut two years ago in Sochi at the age of 19, got his luging start in the backyard of his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The excitement built for him after watching the luge competition on television in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games. His dad, Brett, built a course in the backyard. The tradition is now a big hit around the neighborhood. “I know my dad loves to do it,” Tucker said. He scored his first world cup win last season in Lake Placid and finished second on the track this season.
7. American Support
There’ll be plenty of flag-waving spectators rooting on the Americans in Koenigssee. Erin Hamlin, Emily Sweeney, Tucker West, Chris Mazdzer, Summer Britcher and Jayson Terdiman are among those who’ll have family members and friends in Germany for the competition.
8. Past Success
The United States has won 13 medals (two golds, four silvers, seven bronzes) at the world championships. Among the shining moments was Erin Hamlin’s gold medal in 2009, when the worlds were held on her home track in Lake Placid, and three-time Olympian Wendel Suckow’s gold-medal run in the 1993 world championships.
9. Oldest Artificially Refrigerated Track
The course in Koenigssee is the oldest artificially refrigerated track in the world. The men’s course is 1,339 meters (4,393 feet) long with 16 curves. The women’s course is 1,224 meters (4,016 feet) long with 12 curves. The men’s course is actually four meters longer than the men’s luge course in Lake Placid, and the women‘s course is nearly 100 meters longer. Lake Placid, however, has more curves.
10. Medals Won In Koenigssee
Chris Mazdzer and Erin Hamlin like the track in Koenigssee. Mazdzer won a bronze medal in the world cup hosted by Koenigssee last year and Hamlin has also medaled there.
11. Debut Of Sprint Races
For the first time at the world championships, there will be a sprint event. The qualification runs will be held Thursday, followed by the final round Friday. There have been three sprint events on the world cup tour this season, and Summer Britcher has won twice. Erin Hamlin and Chris Mazdzer each won sprint races last year. “The sprint is an exciting new event for us,” Tucker West said. “It’s nice to have a new event for everyone. It gets more people on the podium.”
12. Anybody’s Game
The women’s singles races on Saturday will be a wide-open battle for the podium. Six different women have won gold medals in six world cup stops, meaning there are no clear-cut favorites. Until this year, there have never been six different winners. “I think the sport definitely needs it. It’s amazing what is happening,” said Summer Britcher, who held the top spot in the points standings until finishing eighth in Oberhof, Germany, two weeks ago. “Each week it got better and better and more exciting. I think it makes it more interesting for everybody.”
13. Chasing Tatjana
One of the six women’s winners this season is Germany’s Tatjana Hufner, who holds the all-time record for world championship gold and silver medals won by a female slider. Hufner is seeking her seventh medal in Koenigssee. She has won four world championships, one silver medal and one bronze medal. The only other woman to win six medals was Sylke Otto of Germany (four gold medals, two bronze medals). Hufner, a three-time Olympic medalist, has medaled at every world championship since 2007.
14. Doubles Domination
Jayson Terdiman and Matt Mortensen will try to break up a podium that could be dominated by Germans on a German track. The heavy favorites to win gold are German sliders Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch, who have won a record six world championship medals, including four gold medals. The Olympic champions won their first world championship title in Koenigssee in 1999.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990 and was Olympic assistant bureau chief for Morris Communications at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also writes about Olympic sports for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.