SIGULDA, Latvia – Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, just days removed from the one year anniversary of her 2014 achievement, finished fourth Saturday in the luge World Championships in Sigulda, Latvia.
Contested in the three intervening years between Olympics, it’s the most significant event in the sport outside of the Winter Games.
Hamlin, who also won the 2009 World Championship in Lake Placid, used her driving skills and fast equipment to bring her to the cusp of the podium. The three-time Olympian finished just 0.04 from the bronze medal on a track that has technical similarities to her home course in Lake Placid.
After a stellar December on the World Cup tour, Hamlin’s January World Cup performances were below her standards. This result was a marked turnaround.
“I feel very good about the two runs,” said the native of Remsen, N.Y. “During training I always try to have something to work on. I had a lot to work on. I wasn’t making it out of (curve) 15 – ever. It was getting painful and annoying. So I picked things apart over the past few days. In the preliminary run yesterday, I was better but I still had some problems with that exit. Today, that was the only thing that was going to keep me from having a good race. Luckily that came together and I’m very happy with the result. I had a few small things that I could find time probably, but as a whole, I’m very satisfied.”
Hamlin’s result is the second best USA Luge achievement in singles at the World Championships. In addition to her 2009 accomplishment, Wendel Suckow captured the World Championship in Calgary in 1993. Adam Heidt was fourth in the Sigulda World Championship singles event in 2003.
Summer Britcher, racing in her first World Championship, rallied to ninth place overall, but took a silver medal in the Under 23 World Championship.
“My first run wasn’t so great,” said Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. “I had a few mistakes I really shouldn’t have made, and so I just wanted to clean those up for the second run and I did.
“I had a skid in curve five, the second curve on the track (from the women’s start), and I had a rough (curve) 13-14 transition. But it was the skid in curve five. A skid at the beginning of the track is a lot of time, and you know it. The rest of the run you know you’ve already messed up. But at the same time it sort of helped me relax the rest of the run.”
Britcher was 11th at the midway point of the race, but the seventh best final heat pushed her up two spots. Previous experience in Sigulda helped.
“I had a lot of time in Sigulda as a junior, so I was able to get accustomed to the track. And with two weeks of training before the race, I felt pretty good. I had a few issues the past couple of days, but overall I felt good.”
Natalie Geisenberger continued her four year reign of women’s luge with her second world title, to go along with Olympic gold and bronze medals, and the overall World Cup crystal the past four seasons.
The winner had a track record of 42.014 seconds in the first leg despite warmer than usual conditions. Geisenberger returned with a time of 42.128 for a combined 1 minute, 24.142 seconds.
Tatyana Ivanova of Russia, just two days from her 24th birthday, collected her second World Championship silver medal. Ivanova also was runner-up to Geisenberger in this event three years ago in Altenberg, Germany.
Ivanova’s national team used Sigulda extensively as their home track for many years prior to the construction of Russian courses in Paramonovo and Sochi. She used that local knowledge to improve from third place after one run. Ivanova posted an aggregate time of 1:24.458. She was merely 0.01 ahead of Tatjana Huefner of Germany.
The bronze medalist sited mistakes in the second run start that sent her down to third place. Nevertheless, the Olympic gold and silver medal winner now has four gold medals, one silver and one bronze in her World Championship career. The six medals make her the most successful women’s singles racer at worlds.
Hamlin’s fourth place time was 1:24.509. Britcher was ninth in 1:24.760. Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine was 17th in 1:25.378.
Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. was inching her way to the top five in the opening heat, but errors in the 10-11 turn combination plummeted her down the list. She finished 22nd.
The German showdown in doubles between the sleds of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt against Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken never materialized. Both teams have won all World Cup and Sprint World Cups to date.
Wendl and Arlt, the Sochi Olympic champions, had the two best heats of the race, including a track record opening attempt. Their combined clocking of 1:23.900 bested Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, who were next in 1:24.936.
Italy’s Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber hurtled over Eggert and Benecken and took the bronze medal in 1:24.157. It was their first podium result of the winter.
Eggert and Benecken, who brought five World Cup wins and four silver medals in nine starts to Sigulda, fell to fourth place.
Olympians Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa., in their first World Championship together, were ninth in 1:24.612. The twosome have made gradual gains this season since becoming a team last March, and today showed increasing speed from start to finish.
They will get another opportunity to anchor the team relay Sunday afternoon. They have successfully capped three World Cup medals this season in the discipline.
Hamlin will be the lead leg. The men’s singles event tomorrow morning will determine the final member of the relay unit.
Coverage of the World Championships is scheduled for Universal Sports Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 16-17, at 8 PM ET.