Above: Summer Britcher racing to a 7th place finish at the 2016 Luge World Championships
KOENIGSSEE, Germany – On home ice in this beautiful Bavarian resort, Germany continued its medal domination on Saturday at the annual luge World Championships, but the surprising developments that began Friday continued.
Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. and Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., outside the top 10 after one heat of women’s singles, put on a final run push to finish seventh and eighth, respectively.
Illustrating the youth of the USA Luge women’s squad, three of the four entries qualified for the U23 World Championships.
Britcher scored a silver medal in the U23 race within the race. Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., was fourth. Sweeney, the 2013 Junior World Champion and a World Cup silver medalist earlier this season, placed 14th in women’s singles. Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., sliding in her first year at the elite level, was 10th in the U23 competition and 26th in the main event.
Above: Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman at the start of the 2016 Luge World Championships. Photo: Brett West
Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman placed ninth earlier in the doubles event that saw Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt shatter the track record in the first leg, and then cruise to a 0.6 of a second triumph over teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken. The ageless Italians, Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber, hurtled past three teams to collect the bronze one day after their sprint doubles bronze medal.
Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria, expected to contend in Koenigssee, got off to a fast start in the opening leg, but encountered serious problems and drifted far from the leaders.
The Americans were not surprised by the Wendl and Arlt performance, and just tried to focus on their own runs.
“When it comes to the race, it’s about having the best runs we can have,” said Mortensen, a Sochi Olympian from Huntington Station, N.Y. “Where the results fall is where they fall.”
“Ninth place in today's World Championship doubles competition,” said Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., via Facebook. “Not where Matthew and I wanted to end up, but things could have been much worse. In a race that saw quite a few crashes and mistakes by other great teams, I'm glad to say that we had two clean runs that still landed us a top 10 finish.
“One more shot at the podium tomorrow as the anchor for Team USA in the relay race.”
There were three different countries on the women’s singles podium, led by gold medalist Natalie Geisenberger of Germany. But Swiss competitor Martina Kocher, who stunned the onlookers with a sprint gold medal 24 hours earlier, validated the win by finishing right behind Geisenberger for the singles silver medal. Later, Kocher said, “This is mega cool.” Russian Tatiana Ivanova was the bronze medalist.
Saturday’s races came down to a pair of key elements in dealing with the world’s oldest artificially refrigerated track: having a fast getaway time on the long and flat start ramp, and then dealing with the exit of S 4 turn.
Geisenberger, on her home course, was among the fastest starters in both legs, got through the S turns cleanly and then gained momentum down the track in winning her third world crown.
She clocked runs of 50.390 and 50.409 seconds – the best of each heat - for a total of 1 minute, 40.799 seconds. Kocher, who has trained extensively with the German team, was about 0.25 of a second behind and slid a pair of near flawless runs.
Ivanova, now with three World Championship podiums, was second fastest in the final attempt and overtook Tatyana Huefner. The most decorated World Championship luge racer of all time, the German was eventually relegated to fourth place, an agonizing 0.001 behind Ivanova’s time of 1:41.055.
Above: Erin Hamlin exits the challenging S combination during the 2016 Luge World Championships. Photo: Brett West
Britcher’s total of 1:41.561 was 0.01 faster than Hamlin, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist. But Hamlin, by virtue of having the best individual heat among U.S women, will start in Sunday afternoon’s team relay that concludes the World Championships. Sweeney, fourth here last season in a World Cup meet, recorded 1:42.239.
Wendl and Arlt took a 0.5 of a second advantage into the intermission. Their blistering opening heat started with nine paddles down the start ramp – after just three paddles in training - while others were using seven strokes.
Their track record of 49.311 turned the event into a battle for second place. The Sochi Olympic champions finished their work in 49.664 for a combined 1:38.975.
Eggert and Benecken, after yesterday’s overweight sled disqualification in the sprint race, were the silver medalists in 1:39.586. Oberstolz and Gruber posted 1:40.728.
Mortensen and Terdiman, who will compete in the team relay, had the ninth place time of 1:41.180. Afterward, Mortensen talked about Sunday’s final event.
“For us (doubles), it’s the same thing. Put down another consistent run…..have a strong start….have a strong reaction time. As long as we’re functioning as a unit and everybody has good runs, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa., in their first World Championship event together, did not finish the opening leg.
Sunday’s schedule offers men’s singles starting at 4:15 AM ET, followed by the Team Relay at 8 AM ET. Both can be viewed via the live stream on the FIL website at www.fil-luge.org.
NBC Sports Network will air two hours of coverage from the World Championships on February 11 beginning at 6:30 PM ET.