Above: Erin Hamlin
CALGARY, Alberta – The USA Luge express, with 11 World Cup medals in the previous two weeks, rolled into Calgary on a cold Friday night in the Canadian Rockies and saw Erin Hamlin claim a silver medal in women’s singles, while Summer Britcher took the bronze.
“Today was an awesome race. It was really, really close,” said Hamlin. “Everyone that was at the top backed up their run so the pressure was on. I had some mistakes in my first run, so I knew I could make up some time. Unfortunately I had some mistakes in my second run as well, but they were at the top so I really just let the sled run for the rest of my run. From (curve) eight down my run was the best I had all week. I really laid it out there. I hit out of the stupid finish curve that could’ve cost me the win, but I’m really happy with second place. It’s my best finish here.”
Now with 13 World Cup medals, USA Luge ties its’ single season best set in 1996-97 and 2014-15. The tour season is almost half completed, with four of nine stops in the books.
Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. led the American doubles effort in sixth place, and remain fifth overall in the World Cup standings. The second year team had its best ever opening run together in a World Cup race, sitting in fourth place in an event that was packed tightly from second to eighth positions at the midpoint of the race.
“Today’s race went pretty well,” said Mortensen. “It was a lot better than I expected. We always hope for a top 10 run. First run we were in fourth place. So I really wanted to hold on to that. Jayson and I had a pretty good second run, but we lost a little bit of time in Kriesel (circle turn) which cost us the run. We had a 10th place run that dropped back to sixth. All in all, I’m really excited because we’re showing the speed that we need to attack those medals, and I’m sure over time, that we’re going to build into it.”
Added Terdiman: “Right now we’re sitting in fifth place overall. We gained a little more point advantage on the sixth place sled today. We’re feeling pretty strong. It’s been a great first half of the season and we’re really looking forward to getting back to Europe second half and see want we can do back over there.”
Natalie Geisenberger of Germany turned a 0.004 of a second intermission deficit against Hamlin into a victory of just 0.012. The win salvaged the first half of the season for Geisenberger, an Olympic gold and bronze medalist, and her women’s team. Germany won two of the first four singles events, while the U.S. has captured the other two.
The gold medalist had runs times of 46.818 and 46.751 seconds for a combined 1 minute, 33.569 seconds.
Hamlin, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion, seems to be using the team’s early season success to compete with a relaxed, devil-may-care attitude.
She totaled 1:33.581 on a 10 degree night at Canada Olympic Park that saw hard, fast ice produce a track record by Russian Tatiana Ivanova in the second heat. Ivanova used the run to rally into fourth place.
Above: Summer Britcher
Britcher, battling through symptoms of strep throat, continues to race like her sled is on fire. She balked at the start handles and then restarted in the opening leg, settling for fifth place. The 21 year old then stormed back in the final heat for her fourth straight podium result in 1:33.712.
“Erin and I keep passing the yellow bib back and forth, from race to race. That’s incredibly exciting,” remarked Britcher. “Hopefully it’ll switch back again tomorrow, but she’s definitely the number one person I want to be second to.
“This season has gone awesome so far, but I’m definitely really excited to go home for Christmas. I actually haven’t been home since June. So I’m really excited to see my parents, my family, my friends back home, and have a little break before we get back at it the beginning of January.”
The U.S. result continued the weekly exchange of the World Cup leader’s bib between the two lugers.
Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., had the leader’s jersey last week before giving it to Britcher. Despite the third place result, Britcher, a 2014 Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa., returned the bib to her teammate.
“It’s pretty exciting here to have two Americans trading the leader bib back and forth,” continued Hamlin. “It’s never happened before. I told her (Britcher) in Park City I was coming for it in Calgary, so I’m sure tomorrow she’ll be right on my heels trying to get it back. It’ll be exciting for the sprint race. I’m pretty confident one of us will come out of the weekend with it. That would be great going into the Christmas break with an American on top.”
Hamlin, a three-time Olympian, has now medaled in her last five World Cup starts, and leads Britcher on the season with 401 World Cup overall points to Britcher’s 395. Geisenberger is third at 365 after her first gold medal of the year.
Above: Raychel Germaine
Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. placed seventh in 1:33.933, while Raychel Germaine of Roswell, Ga. took 19th in 1:35.594. Sweeney is fifth overall with 275; Germaine, in her rookie campaign, is 11th with 169.
“The women’s program has come so far,” added Hamlin. “In the past four or five years I’ve seen a lot of potential come up and nip at my heels. It’s pushed me and made me better. We’ve all pushed each other to continue improving and to now be chasing down the Germans and to be beating them, and to bring the level of the women’s competition up internationally, is really exciting. It’s been fun to have that friendly competition with the Germans. I think they’re acknowledging how far we’ve come and how fast we’re going. It’s been a great atmosphere the last couple of weeks. I’m just really proud of all of our girls for staying tough and improving so much over the past, not only one season, but it’s been a couple of years coming, and putting it all together.”
Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken have taken over domination of the World Cup doubles circuit. In all, they have won three of the five races to date. Their two heats totaled 1:28.223 (44.098-44.125).
The winners led by 0.28 of a second at the break over Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler. The latter duo finished second in 1:28.327. The bronze medal went to Sochi Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, of Germany, the dominant team leading into the 2014 Winter Games. Wendl and Arlt posted 1:28.580.
Eggert and Benecken have 455 overall World Cup points. Penz and Fischler are next with 385 points, with Wendl and Arlt in third with 367 points. The Americans’ total is 239 overall World Cup points.
Above: Sherk, Aidan Kelly and Krewson
Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa., in their debut season, were 14th, 1.3 second off the pace. They are 11th in the tour rankings with 176 points.
Above: Jake Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza
Jake Hyrns of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza of Park City, Utah, another doubles team in its first season, placed 16th in 1:29.900. They are 15th in the standings with 144 World Cup points.
The final World Cup events of 2015 will get underway at 1:15 PM EST on Saturday, with men’s singles and the sprint cup. Follow the action via the live stream at www.usaluge.org.
NBC Sports Network will have coverage on Sunday, December 27, from 4-5 PM EST.