Emily Sweeney reacts following her third run in luge women's singles at the Winter Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 13, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
One year after her first Olympic Winter Games ended with a stunning crash in PyeongChang, Emily Sweeney leaves this year’s luge world championships on a more positive note.
Sweeney earned the bronze medal on Saturday in Winterberg, Germany, marking her first senior world championship medal to go along with her junior world champion title from 2013. It’s just the third luge world championship medal by an American woman, and Erin Hamlin won the other two (gold in 2009, silver in 2017).
“I don’t know if it’s totally hit me yet,” Sweeney said, “but I said kind of going into this season, and going into this quad really, knowing that I did have an injury last year, I’m not looking for overall medals, I want big medals, I want world medals and I want Olympic medals, so to actually have one is crazy.”
Moving up one place on the leader board isn’t always a big deal, but for Sweeney it was the difference between finishing off the podium and winning a medal at the world championships.
The 25-year-old from Suffield, Connecticut, was in fourth place after the first runs of the day while teammate Summer Britcher, who came into the world championships on a hot streak, was in third with a time of 57.408 seconds.
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Just behind her was Sweeney with a time of 57.467. Leading was track record holder and two-time defending Olympic champion Natalie Geisenberger of Germany, with fellow German Julia Taubitz in second place.
Britcher sped up on her second run, but not as much as some of her competitors. Sweeney turned in the second-fastest time of the second run and that 56.914 bumped her briefly to the top spot. Geisenberger and Taubitz would ultimately hold onto their first and second places, and Sweeney finished third, .513 seconds behind Geisenberger.
Britcher, who had reached the podium in four straight world cups coming into the weekend, finished fifth.
“Overall I am pretty happy with my performance,” she said. “My first run was nearly perfect, which put me in a great position. I had a few mistakes in my second run, but overall a pretty decent run.”
The result marked the second world championships in a row in which the U.S. had two women in the top five, after Hamlin was second and Britcher fourth in 2017.
“Every weekend, every track we have potential to succeed,” Britcher said.
Sweeney, who’s a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, won a world cup bronze medal earlier this season in her first major international race since a scary crash took her out of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Sliding through a difficult portion of the track in her fourth and final run, Sweeney lost control of her sled and careened down the track. Although she didn’t suffer serious injuries, Sweeney’s offseason preparations were hindered.
“Ten, 11 months ago I was pretty miserable, not going to lie,” Sweeney said. “The difference form them to now, yes, it does seem unreal, and to that all I can say is time makes things better.”
She paused, and then added, “Time and a lot of work.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.