IGLS, Austria – United States junior luge racers fell on the wrong side of the draw in warm, drizzling conditions Friday as the junior world championships commenced at the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympic site outside Innsbruck, Austria.
As a result 2014 Olympian Summer Britcher, 19, of Glen Rock, Pa., led the U.S. effort battling from the 14th start position in the opening leg to finish fifth. Italy took gold and silver medals, with Germany third.
“I was a little disappointed with my first run today, which put me into eighth place,” said Britcher. “But my second run was solid enough to move me up. Now I'm just ready to put this race behind me and head to Sochi.
”Britcher’s Sochi teammate, Tucker West, 18, of Ridgefield, Conn., was ninth among the men as Germany took gold and silver medals and Russia the bronze.
The third U.S. Olympic team member in the group, 19 year old Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y., was 14th.
The medal winners in the men’s event drew start numbers one to five affording them better track conditions, while the four Americans all started between 15 and 20.“Unfortunately, a bad start number along with subpar weather conditions caused the track to deteriorate a little too much by the time I slid,” said West. “Although the results aren’t fabulous I'm still thrilled with the direction my sliding is moving in. I was able to post two clean and confident runs which, was one of my biggest goals at the start of the season. Moving towards Sochi I'm happy with where my sliding is. I'll be making a few tweaks here and there before the race, but overall I'm ready and excited to compete.”
Toni Graffe became junior world champion by just .02 of a second with a come-from-behind effort. Graffe was second after the first of two heats, but overtook teammate Christian Paffe to win the race in 1 minute, 41.473 seconds. First run leader Paffe was clocked in 1:41.496.The bronze medal went to Alexander Stepichev in 1:41.637.
West was timed in 1:42.182, with Kelly finishing in 1:42.395.“Today’s race went just about as planned with the exception of my finish place,” said Kelly. “I was 17th off the handles and it was 40 degrees and raining. Despite having two great runs I ended up in 14th, but my spirits are high having finally had a clean race. The weather left the times out of our hands and there was nothing we could do but hope to have the best runs possible, and that’s exactly what we did. Though none of us are excited about those results we know it wasn't because of our sliding.
”Riley Stohr of Whitehall, Mich. placed 17th in 1:42.746. Jonny Gustafson of Massena, N.Y., took 22nd with a time of 1:43.204.Italian Olympians Andrea Voetter and Sandra Robatscher took gold and silver medals, respectively. Voetter registered 1:21.180, while Robatscher rallied from fourth place at the break and posted the best final leg time. She totaled 1:21.235. Germany’s Julia Taubitz claimed the bronze medal in 1:21.312.Britcher staged a rally of her own, putting down the third fastest final heat to advance from eighth to fifth in 1:21.428.Raychel Germaine of Roswell, Ga., was 22nd in 1:22.096. Kaitlin Simi of Park City, Utah, was 26th, while Hannah Miller of Rome, N.Y., placed 34th.
The two-day event features a number of Sochi Winter Olympians who are age 20 and under.
The junior world championships conclude tomorrow with doubles and the team relay. Follow the action live on www.sportscube77.com.