LILLEHAMMER, Norway – Tatiana Ivanova of Russia, who qualified in Friday’s Nations Cup race by setting a track record time, took that mark down further in the opening heat of Saturday’s World Cup luge race on the 1994 Olympic track in Lillehammer on her way to the gold medal.
Sochi Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., who had problems in the start of the opening run, led the American effort with an 11th place result. Hamlin had the eighth best final heat and moved up three spots.
Summer Britcher, 2014 Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa., fresh from a career-best fourth place last weekend in Oberhof, Germany, placed 14th. She could not capitalize on her improving start times that put her in the top 10 of both runs.
Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn., was making gains down the Hunderfossen course in the opening run, but got derailed by the unlucky 13th curve, and fell back to 23rd place.
The doubles race earlier in the day saw the USA’s Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman take 12th place.
Ivanova relegated dominant German Natalie Geisenberger to second place at the intermission. Geisenberger was trying to erase the memory of a crash in Friday’s final training run, while the Russian, who was in the same position after one run of the 2012 World Championships in Altenberg, ended up settling for the silver medal three years ago behind another German, Tatyana Huefner.
Geisenberger attempted to make history repeat itself in Lillehammer. She was en route to winning in the second heat, but stumbled badly in the lower section of the track and wound up fifth, while Ivanova held steady for her third career World Cup win.
It turned out to be a great race for second place. Ivanova’s two fastest heats of 47.590 and 47.716 seconds totaled 1 minute, 35.306 seconds. She bettered Canadian Alex Gough by over 0.4 of a second as Gough recorded 1:35.732. Dajana Eitberger of Germany collected the bronze medal in 1:35.753.
Hamlin registered a combined time of 1:36.053; Britcher’s total was 1:36.179; Sweeney’s time was 1:40.639.
Geisenberger remains atop the overall World Cup rankings with 825 points. In 16 individual race runs this year (World Cups and Sprint World Cups combined), the tall German athlete has been fastest 13 times. The last time she missed the podium was in February 2011 in Sigulda, Latvia, site of the 2015 World Championships in two weeks.
Eitberger is second with 596 World Cup points, with Huefner third at 537 after winding up seventh Saturday.
Hamlin, a three-time Olympian, is in sixth place with 430 points. Sweeney, the 2013 Junior World Champion, is ninth with 334; Britcher 11th at 271; and Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine 17th at 209 points. Clukey, a 2010 Olympian, did not qualify for the race in Friday’s Nations Cup.
Germany’s Olympic gold medal winners in Sochi, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt continued their surge to the top of the World Cup rankings by defeating teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken.
After watching Eggert and Benecken win the first four races of the season and take a commanding lead in the overall World Cup chase, the Tobis have rallied with victories in four of the last five contests and are now just 55 points off the pace. The winners credited a fast running sled that enabled them to overcome a big error in the first run.
Eggert and Benecken have 840 points, while Wendl and Arlt have 785. Latvian brothers Andris and Juris Sics, Olympic silver and bronze medalists, are third after finishing fifth in Lillehammer.
In a close race that saw the top four doubles sleds separated by just 0.1 of a second, Saturday’s winners were clocked in 1:35.269 for their two heats. Eggert and Benecken totaled 1:35.304, which included a track record first run. The improving Russian team of Alexandr Denisyev and Vladislav Antonov, fifth in Sochi, was next in 1:35.343.
Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. recorded a time of 1:36.051. They are currently seventh on the year with 357 World Cup points.
Sunday’s men’s singles competition and team relay brings the Lillehammer World Cup stop to an end. Action begins at 3:15 AM ET. Follow the live timing at www.fil-luge.org