After crashing at a Nations Cup last week, luger Summer Britcher needed a break.
“Mentally, I was in a bit of a tough spot this week,” she said.
On Sunday, she got one. The 2014 Olympian won a bronze medal while the U.S. had three women finish in the top eight at the luge world cup in Winterberg, Germany.
Britcher, who competed in Sochi in 2014 two years after appearing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012, finished with a combined time of 1:53.893, just .409 seconds behind Natalie Geisenberger of Germany, the defending Olympic champion who recorded her 40th world cup individual win. Tatjana Huefner, Geisenberger’s teammate and an 11-time world championship medalist, was second in 1:53.832.
As a bonus, Britcher also earned an “A” tier qualification in Winterberg, putting her one step closer to qualifying for her second Olympic Games. An athlete who finishes in the top five in a world cup race where there are 24 or more women’s sleds entered earns the tier A qualification.
“I was happy to have two good runs,” Britcher said on a conference call with reporters on Sunday afternoon from Germany. “I know it’s cliché, but last weekend I was really putting too much pressure on myself and not having as much fun as I should have been. So I was just focused on having a good time and having the best runs I could have. When that ended up putting me on the podium I was very happy, and the bonus of getting the ‘A’ tier was a good thing.”
Britcher, 23, earned the first podium finish for the U.S. women in the young world cup season that kicked off last weekend in Igls, Austria.
Just behind Britcher in Winterberg was Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, with a fourth-place time of 1:54.042, and Emily Sweeney in eighth place with a time of 1:54.173. Sweeney was tied for second with Britcher after the first heat, but fell back in the second.
Shortly after, Sweeney went on to win gold in the sprint race for her career fourth world cup medal. Britcher took silver in that race, 0.044 seconds behind.
With Hamlin’s finish in the women’s singles race, she qualified for her fourth Olympic Games, becoming the first of three U.S. women who will ultimately compete in PyeongChang in February. She made history in 2014 in Sochi when she won a bronze medal, the first individual Olympic medal for an American luger. She also won an individual silver medal at last year’s world championships, plus sprint gold and team relay silver.
The U.S. luge athletes will have three more weekends of racing before USA Luge announces its 10 Olympic nominees on Dec. 16, following the world cup in Lake Placid, New York.