Above: Summer Britcher (left) and Emily Sweeney of the United States in action during the first run of the Calgary FIL Viessmann World Cup #3 in Calgary on December 2014.
Above: Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman of the United States en route to a 12th place finish in Calgary, Canada.
CALGARY, Alberta – Yes, the German luge team dominates on their four home tracks. But say this for them: their game is portable.
After sweeping the gold medals in Igls, Austria to start the World Cup season and then winning three of four events in Lake Placid last weekend, the sport’s top team took both races Friday night in Calgary, Alberta.
Only USA Luge’s Tucker West has been able to break the German stranglehold on first place over the first three weeks of the winter. West, the Ridgefield, Conn. racer who won last Friday in Lake Placid, will get two more opportunities Saturday afternoon in the singles race followed by the Sprint Cup.
Erin Hamlin, Olympic bronze medalist and World Champion, was the top American on the night, placing eighth. Emily Sweeney, the 2013 Junior World Champion, finished 10th marking her third top 10 of the year.
“I have to be happy with the result. I had some major mistakes up there,” said Hamlin. “My first run was decent. I had a little bobble at the start again, which didn’t affect me too much time-wise. From the Kriesel (360 degree turn) down I was a little off all week and it continued. I had to muscle my way to the finish which is a lot of time (lost) here. The corrections I had to make definitely hurt me.”
Rounding out the U.S. team were 2014 Olympian Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. who finished 19th and 2010 Olympian Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine in 24th place. Both luge athletes had competitive starts but lost time negotiating Calgary’s layout.
Canada scored a trio of medals, with Tristan Walker and Justin Snith, fourth in Sochi, sliding into third place for their second career doubles medal. Teammate Alex Gough, also fourth at the 2014 Winter Games, pushed Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger to the wall before settling for second place by 0.05 of a second. It was Gough’s season-opening race as she is competing part-time this season to accommodate her studies. Arianne Jones, also of Canada, picked up the bronze medal, her first in the World Cup.
Geisenberger, Olympic gold and bronze medalist as well as defending World Champion and World Cup overall champion, calmly put down the two fastest runs on a comfortable night.
The winner recorded 46.912 and 46.948 seconds for a combined 1 minute, 33.860 seconds. Gough totaled 1:33.918, while Jones’ medal-winning runs came in 1:34.274.
Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., totaled 1:34.451, with Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn. two places further back in a time of 1:35.070.
To hear Hamlin tell it, that she actually had a final time was something of a miracle.
“The second run I finally nailed the bottom,” she continued. “But I had a little mistake in curve 13 and got really lucky I wasn’t on my face in 14. I bumped pretty hard and was pretty much in the air off my sled. Luckily I landed straight and made it around okay. But you lose so much of your momentum and a lot of time.”
Doubles racers Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken opened the weekend series on the 1988 Olympic track by defeating teammates and 2014 Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. Despite a significant error in the second heat as they exited the Kriesel, Eggert and Benecken are undefeated thus far in 2014-2015, and have the 2014 Olympic champions perplexed as they give chase.
Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa., the lone U.S. sled in the field, placed 12th in 1:28.750. After two consecutive World Cup top 10 performances for this new team, Friday’s race departed from the script immediately.
“The race didn’t go as planned,” said Mortensen. “Although we didn’t quite hit the wall at the start we bumped the right side and that sent us pretty hard to the left. We made the best of the situation. The second run was better but the start wasn’t very good.”
Eggert and Benecken, also the World Cup overall leaders with a perfect 400 points, were timed in 1:27.806 for their two runs, defeating Wendl and Arlt by just 0.03 of a second. Walker and Snith clocked 1:28.014.
The winners could stretch their point advantage comfortably with another Sprint Cup victory on Saturday.
The men’s singles event gets underway at 1:15 PM Eastern Time, with the Sprint Cup on tap for 4:45 PM Eastern Time.
Erin Hamlin audio Interview: