Britcher in singles and relay team both 7th in Altenberg World Cup

By Sandy Caligiore | Dec. 03, 2017, 11 a.m. (ET)

Above: Summer Britcher at the start handles with Taylor Morris ready in the background. Photos: Matt Mortensen

ALTENBERG, Germany – USA Luge’s Summer Britcher, a winner of two World Cup medals last weekend, and the American relay team that included the Glen Rock, Pa. racer, were both seventh Sunday in Altenberg to lead the U.S. effort.

At this course about three turns from the Czech Republic, Germany continued its home track domination with a women’s medal sweep in the morning, followed by a gold medal in the team relay. They toppled track records along the way with race winners Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch and the doubles team of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken.

Britcher, whose World Cup singles bronze medal in Winterberg secured an A tier Olympic qualification, had a consistent week of training, but it didn’t translate into the opening heat.

“I saved my worst run of the week for race day,” she quipped as her first attempt concluded.

The 2014 Olympian, discovered at a USA Luge Challenge at Ski Liberty, Pa. in 2006, was eighth at the break and moved up one spot in the final leg.

Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., headed to her fourth Olympics in 65 days, settled for ninth place, while Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn. was 11th. Sweeney, seeking her first Olympic berth, captured the Winterberg Sprint Cup gold medal - the only race of the season Geisenberger has not won.

Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga. did not qualify in the Nations Cup. Teammates Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., and John Fennell, a dual citizen from Calgary, suffered a similar fate that kept them on the sidelines in Saturday’s men’s singles competition.

In the team relay, Britcher, with the second fastest women’s leg, teamed with Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, and the doubles team of Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah.

Altenberg uses three different starts, which saw the women and men in the team relay drop down to the doubles start position with no training from there. The challenge of the course was evident the entire weekend in curves nine, the Kriesel (circle) and 14 to 15.

In winning for the 33rd time since the advent of this discipline in 2010, the German relay team set a track record time of 2 minutes, 22.644 seconds, yet they, too, were less than perfect. They have taken both team relays held this season.

Austria was second, 0.3 of a second behind the winners, with Italy third, 0.47 off the pace. The U.S. quartet stopped the clock in 2:24.441.

Germany’s 1-2-3 in women’s singles was highlighted by start and track records on Altenberg’s perfect ice. Geisenberger, the defending Olympic champion, took the first run lead and then rocketed to a record 52.036 to win the event in 1:44.241. She has three victories to date this season in four starts.

Silver medalist Tatjana Huefner, the 2017 World Champion who has also collected all three Olympic medals in her career, established the start record (5.451) in the first heat on her way to a combined 1:44.398. Dajana Eitberger was the bronze medal winner in 1:44.733.

Britcher clocked a total of 1:44.951; Hamlin registered 1:45.270; and Sweeney recorded 1:45.329.

Geisenberger, the World Cup all-time record-setter with 41 career wins, has 370 points, 70 points ahead of Huefner in the overall tour standings. Eitberger is third with 228 World Cup points. Geisenberger and Huefner are chasing their sixth season-long World Cup crystal.

Sweeney is in fifth place on the campaign at 204 points, followed closely by Britcher, sixth, with 202 points. Hamlin is ninth with 145 and Germaine, 22nd, with 27.

The Altenberg stop marked the third of five consecutive weekends of racing. The tour now comes to North America for events in Calgary Dec. 8-9 (Friday and Saturday) and Lake Placid Dec. 15-16 (Friday and Saturday) to end the Olympic qualification period.

USA Luge will announce its 10 Olympic nominees for the Pyeongchang Winter Games on the evening of Dec. 16 at 6 PM in the Conference Center in Lake Placid.

RESULTS AND STANDINGS