USA Luge leaves Oberhof with a pair of sixth place finishes

By Sandy Caligiore | Feb. 10, 2019, 10:59 a.m. (ET)

OBERHOF, Germany – On the final day of World Cup racing for the weekend, USA Luge posted sixth place results Sunday in both women’s singles and the team relay.

Rain and wind greeted the women in Oberhof , knick-named Blow-berhof by USA Luge athletes for the region’s preponderance for strong winds. Temperatures pushed the 40-degree mark adding to the tour’s weather issues throughout Germany over the past month.

Slowing conditions impacted the team relay as Italy, an early starter, capitalized for the victory.

USA Luge’s lone entry in the women’s field, two-time Olympian Summer Britcher, was sixth on a day when the home team took all the hardware. Britcher’s result, in a season where she’s won three World Cup medals, all consecutive, enabled her to remain in third place in the season-long standings with two events remaining in Sochi.

“It was a pretty good race today with some close racing,” said Britcher. “There were only two or three-hundredths separating four or five sleds in the first run. It was a tight race which is always exciting. I didn’t end up as high as I wanted but it was still a lot of fun.”

Pyeongchang Olympian Emily Sweeney did not compete this week, opting instead to rest as part of her comeback from a year ago. Despite entering just six of 10 World Cup races this year, the Suffield, Conn. athlete is 10th in the overall standings. Sweeney will race at the World Cup finals.

Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., ran the lead leg in the team relay where she teamed with Tucker West and the doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman. The latter two will return home Monday as Mazdzer will begin evaluation of the neck and shoulder issues that he’s raced through this winter.

The Americans are fourth-ranked in the World Cup team relay standings. With Mazdzer and Terdiman, the only doubles team, now having concluded their seasons, USA Luge will be among the spectators at the Sochi team relay. Four singles athletes will participate there – Britcher, Sweeney, West and Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y.

Above: Summer Britcher navigates the Oberhof luge track during the Feb. 10 World Cup

WOMEN

Germany’s 2018 Olympic team swept in Oberhof, led by Natalie Geisenberger, a winner of five Olympic medals, four of them gold. Her season has featured five victories and four silver medals in 10 events. The effort, coming five days after her 31st birthday, also secured her fourth European title as the weekend had double significance. The World Cup finals in Sochi two weeks from now figures to offer a pair of victory laps before she caps her seventh World Cup crystal.

Julia Taubitz, also of Germany, was fifth in the race and is second in the standings. After opening the year with seven consecutive podium results and two wins, Taubitz has been out of the top three in her last three starts.

With the two fastest runs of the race, Geisenberger clocked 1 minute, 22.810 seconds, good enough for a 0.22 of a second triumph over Tatjana Huefner, who reverted to her old sled this week. A winner of all three Olympic medals and six World Championships, Huefner raced her final event on German soil as she will retire in two weeks at the age of 35. Fittingly, she went out in style, recording the two best start times and threatening Geisenberger except for two wall taps in the straightaway between curves 13 and 14.

Dajana Eitberger, the Pyeongchang Olympic silver medal winner, was second after one heat, made a collection of errors in the second run, yet finished third in 1:23.127.

Britcher improved her second run by 0.06 of a second over the first heat. USA Luge’s all-time World Cup singles race winner, Britcher had an aggregate time of 1:23.272 on Oberhof’s luge design that goes back to the era of separate sliding tracks.

Above: At the Oberhof World Cup on Feb. 10, 2019, the USA relay team from left to right : Summer Britcher, Tucker West, Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman.

TEAM RELAY

When the weather doesn’t cooperate, timing is everything. For Italy, the timing was right. The second team out of the gate, the foursome of Andrea Voetter, Dominik Fischnaller, Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, capitalized to claim the team relay gold medal.

The winners sat in the leader’s box for the final seven teams and outlasted them all as conditions took their toll. Drilling further into the event, the long gap between the traditional finish line and the touch pad cost teams gulps of time.

The winners’ time of 2:22.827 topped Germany’s 2:22.943. The silver medalists raced Geisenberger, Johannes Ludwig and the tandem of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. Geisenberger had the fastest women’s leg, but her teammates lost fractions on their runs.

Latvia’s doubles team of brothers Andris and Juris Sics brought them from beyond the medals to third place in 2:23.256.

The U.S. quartet, sixth team on the start list, clocked 2:23.666. They got no closer to the podium than Britcher’s third best women’s run. West, of Ridgefield, Conn., had the fastest reaction, but saw time slip away going up the long, slow outrun to the pad.

Perhaps a sign of Mazdzer’s neck and shoulder problems manifested itself in the doubles’ reaction time. Normally among the quickest, Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., were off the pace from the start gate. They gained time on the trip down the course, but could only maintain the position established by West.

In the overall World Cup rankings, USA Luge, with silver and bronze medals this year, hopes to retain fourth behind Germany, Russia and Latvia. With no team in the Sochi field, their season can end no better.

The sixth and final team relay on Feb. 24, beginning at 6:30 AM ET, will end the World Cup season. That is the make-up race from Altenberg which was snowed out last Sunday.

The concluding weekend-long event on the 2014 Olympic course will offer the complete luge menu – men’s and women’s singles, doubles, sprint races and the team relay.

The Olympic Channel will provide television coverage from Oberhof on Feb. 10 from 7-8 PM ET.

RESULTS AND STANDINGS