IGLS, Austria – Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin opened the new World Cup luge season Saturday with a second run rally into fifth place at the two-time Olympic site in Igls, Austria.
On a mild, sunny day in the Austrian Tyrol with temperatures approaching 60 degrees, the three-time Olympian, 2009 World Champion and six-time Norton National Champion, led a group of four Americans into the top 15 as USA Luge showed its strength in the women’s discipline.
It was Hamlin’s fifth top five result in nine Igls appearances, including one bronze medal.
“My first run wasn’t so great,” said the Remsen, N.Y. native. “I had a little problem at the start so that didn’t give me the best of chances to work with. Then down at the bottom, (curves) 12-13-14 were a little rough and I made a good save that kept it from being worse.
Above: Erin Hamlin. AP Photo
“It’s always such close racing here. There’s really no room for error. I’ll take fifth place for sure but there’s definitely room for improvement. The second run was pretty decent. Not perfect but workable.”
Emily Sweeney, 2013 Junior World Champion, took a career-best seventh. Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey was 13th and 2014 Olympian Summer Britcher was 14th on a day that saw Germany sweep the top four places.
“I probably lucked out with conditions in the first run,” said Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. “In the second run I entered a little late into (curve) 12 and I lost it there. And then I hit (curve) 14 too soon and scrubbed time off.
“This was an important race for me to have two pretty solid runs. It felt good since I hadn’t raced in a World Cup in over a year. So it’s good to feel like I belong again.”
The new doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, who grabbed a bronze medal in Friday’s Nations Cup qualifying, were seventh in their World Cup debut. Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken used a first heat track record to push themselves to victory by half a second. On a day where the ice softened and became frosty with the rising mercury, the Americans advanced from 10th at the intermission and improved three spots with their second effort. They were 0.74 off the pace.
“There’s always a little apprehension in the first World Cup,” remarked Mortensen, the front driver from Huntington Station, N.Y. “You don’t know how you’re going to do or how others are going. Jayson and I set a goal for ourselves (top eight) and achieved it which is always nice. Overall all the doubles teams had a really rough go of it. Everyone, including us, didn’t have the best of runs. I’m happy that the speed is there and if Jayson and I can throw down some good clean runs, we’ll be in the mix for top five every time which is a nice, reassuring feeling.”
Above: Mortensen and Terdiman. AP Photo
Back driver Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., added, “For us it was a big success. We set a goal and exceeded that. For me it’s the best World Cup result in over two and a half years. It’s a great feeling. I’m really excited, especially coming home next week to Lake Placid. It’s a big confidence boost.”
Defending Olympic champion Natalie Geisenberger, also the reigning World Cup overall winner, also used a first heat track record to capture the season opener by 0.20 of a second over Dajana Eitberger. Olympic gold and silver medal winner Tatyana Huefner finished third, with Anke Wischnewski fourth.
Geisenberger clocked 39.854 and 39.968 seconds for a combined 1 minute, 19.822 seconds. Eitberger, 2011 Junior World Champion, was the silver medalist in 1:20.031. Huefner took the bronze in 1:20.040.
Hamlin was right behind Wischnewski in 1:20.394. Sweeney’s runs were conducted in opposite fashion from Hamlin. Sweeney stood fifth after one heat, 0.17 from third place. She clocked two heats totaling 1:20.418.
Above: Summer Britcher. AP Photo
Clukey of Augusta, Maine, who missed qualifying for last year’s Olympic team by just 0.013 of a second in the fifth World Cup event, was timed in 1:20.651. She had the fastest starts in both heats. Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., a 2012 Youth Olympic Games gold medalist in the team relay on the same course, accrued a time of 1:20.668.
Eggert and Benecken had runs of 39.563 and 39.767 for a combined 1:19.330. It was their third career win. Russians Vladislav Yuzhakov and Vladimir Prokhorov were next in 1:19.835. Third place went to Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria, who came from seventh place to the bronze medal in 1:19.850. Their former teammates, Andreas and Wolfgang Linger, two-time Olympic gold medal winners, made their retirement official before a home throng. The brothers took a final trip down the Igls track as forerunners prior to the last leg of the doubles event.
Conspicuous by their absence from the podium were Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. The Sochi Olympic gold medalists in doubles and the team relay settled for fourth in Igls, missing the podium by merely 0.01 of a second.
The competition being held this weekend just outside Innsbruck will conclude Sunday with men’s singles followed by the inaugural sprint World Cup races in all three divisions.
Action begins at 3:48 AM Eastern Time. Follow the live timing and scoring at www.fil-luge.org