Above: Erin HamlinALTENBERG, Germany – USA Luge posted sixth place results Sunday in women’s singles and the team relay as the Viessmann World Cup luge program came to an end at this former East German resort near the border of the Czech Republic.
Sochi Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin rallied from 12th place in the opening leg with the third best second run and finished sixth. Later, Hamlin teamed with Chris Mazdzer and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman to also take sixth place.
“The start number definitely played a big role today,” said Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., who is the current track record-holder. “I was 22nd off with less than ideal race conditions. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to rain or snow most of the morning. It pretty much stopped by the time I went, but the damage was done on the track, and being that late definitely didn’t help my cause at all.”
Olympic gold and bronze medalist, Natalie Geisenberger, of Germany, started 24th and stood eighth at the break. She, too, stormed up the results list and landed in fourth place. With 810 overall World Cup points, Geisenberger has clinched her fourth World Cup championship as she mathematically cannot be caught with just one race remaining.
Hamlin is in third place. She started Sunday just two spots ahead of the German.
“I didn’t have the best start curve my first run but nothing too drastic,” remarked Hamlin. “There was definitely some time (lost) in there but not half a second worth of time. I was 13th off in the second run; 22nd off in the first run. That was the biggest factor. I just cleaned up the start curve in the second run so that helped for sure.”
The women’s singles race nearly got away from the home team, as Geisenberger’s training was limited after a mid-week crash that left her with a sore neck. Tatiana Huefner and Dajana Eitberger were third and fourth, respectively, after one heat, as Latvia’s Elisa Cauce took the lead, followed by Russian Tatjana Ivanova.
Huefner, the 2010 Olympic champion, Sochi silver medalist and four-time World Champion, staged a final heat rally that overtook the field, dropping Cauce to second and Ivanova to third. The gold medal enabled the 33-year-old Huefner to finally annex a European title as the Altenberg races doubled as the continental championships.
Huefner’s runs of 53.359 and 53.020 seconds – a 0.3 of a second improvement over her first – totaled 1 minute, 46.379 seconds. Cauce’s career best World Cup result occurred in 1:46.590, with Ivanova, who has medaled in four of the last six World Cup events, next in 1:46.692.
Above: Summer Britcher in Altenberg, racing in the Feb. 14, 2016 World Cup. AP Photo
The Russian is second to Geisenberger in the standings with 701 overall points, with Hamlin just nine points behind Ivanova. Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., was ninth in 1:47.005, and is in fourth place, only eight points removed from her teammate.
Above: Emily Sweeney in action on Feb. 14, 2016 in Altenberg, German. AP Photo
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., wound up 12th in 1:47.243 and is eighth ranked with 498 World Cup points.
Germany closed the weekend by winning the Viessmann Team Relay World Cup presented by BMW, and clinched the tour championship with one more relay remaining on the schedule. The victory gave the home team a sweep of all four races.
In the exciting nature of the relay, the unforeseen continues to happen. Ukraine’s Daria Gula never made it through the finish line, eliminating her team.
Birgit Platzer, of Austria, swung and missed the touch pad, disqualifying her team.
And Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y., the World Cup bronze medalist a day earlier, had the fastest reaction time after Hamlin put the team in third place. But Mazdzer pulled to the right and over-corrected to the left, hitting the wall, ending USA Luge’s medal hopes.
The event moved to a new start for the team relay. No singles sleds this week had any training time from this set of handles.
The winners set a new Altenberg team relay record with a time of 2:24.204. Canada, which held the track record Sunday for about 20 minutes, settled for the silver medal in 2:24.550. Latvia was third in 2:24.982, and overtook the American team for second place in the standings. Just five points separate the two, with only 25 points between second and fourth places.
As the World Cup tour now moves to the finals in Winterberg next weekend, only the doubles championship remains at large between Germany’s top two sleds. But Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt are a distant 90 points in front of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken.
USA Luge will try to finish in the World Cup overall top three in men’s and women’s singles and the team relay, and top five in doubles. It would noteworthy achievements in a season that has seen the team achieve a record 17 World Cup medals.
Winter weather would help the U.S. cause. As Mazdzer stated Saturday, cold weather and hard ice seem to agree more with the athletes and their equipment. But…
“As long as the conditions are good, I think I’m good,” opined Hamlin. “We don’t always have real winter anymore so I probably need to figure out some things as far as being able to go fast on slower ice.
“I’ve checked the weather for home and it looks pretty cold. I would actually take a little bit of that this week and next week, but unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to get it.”
The forecast for Winterberg will offer a mild week, with Saturday and Sunday temperatures in the high 40s.
Erin Hamlin interview below