Britcher 9th to open final World Cup luge weekend of the season

By Sandy Caligiore | Feb. 23, 2019, 10:24 a.m. (ET)

Above: Summer Britcher competes in Sochi, Russia on February 23, 2019

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – After finishing ninth Saturday in a World Cup luge singles race, Summer Britcher retained her hold on third place in the overall World Cup standings with only Sunday’s sprint final left to be contested at this 2014 Sochi Olympic site.

The 2014 and 2018 Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa. is looking to match the third-place season standing that she recorded last year.

Teammate Emily Sweeney, 17th after her first run, withdrew prior to the final heat, thus ending a successful season that saw her win a World Championship bronze medal and a World Cup bronze medal in a partial year. She also recorded four World Cup fourth place results. Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., continues her recovery from last February’s crash in Pyeongchang.

The earlier doubles race was devoid of Americans as the team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman concluded their season two weeks ago in Oberhof. Mazdzer was suffering from shoulder and neck problems and underwent surgery three days ago. Nevertheless, they remain in seventh place on the season, which saw them partner in October for the first time since 2008. The highlight was a sprint silver medal in Lake Placid two months ago and a collection of top 10 performances.

Without Mazdzer and Terdiman, USA Luge will be absent from Sunday’s season-ending team relay.

WOMEN

German Natalie Geisenberger made it official – she captured her seventh consecutive World Cup Joska Crystal, symbolic of the season-long championship. A winner of four Olympic gold medals (two singles, two team relay), the 31-year-old has ruled the women’s tour since taking Olympic bronze in Vancouver.

In 2018-2019, Geisenberger has six gold and four silver medals in 11 World Cup starts. Then add World Championships this season in singles and the sprint as well as the European title to complete the luge Grand Slam. For good measure, she will try to win her 50th individual race on Sunday.

On Sochi’s long women’s course, Geisenberger was victorious by 0.15 of a second over Russia’s Viktoriia Demchenko, the winner of Friday’s Nations Cup qualifier. Geisenberger clocked the two best heats of the event and totaled 1 minute, 40.374 seconds.

That Demchenko, the daughter of team coach and triple Olympic medalist Albert Demchenko, is competing at this level is noteworthy after she suffered a concussion in Koenigssee just after New Year’s.

Pyeongchang Olympic silver medal winner Dajana Eitberger, a Geisenberger teammate, was third in 1:40.703. Latvia’s Kendija Aparjode had a career-best fourth place result.

Julia Taubitz, of Germany, collected a fifth place result and will be second in the overall tour ranking as she, also, cannot be caught.

Britcher, with three podium results this season, stood 11th at the break, before putting down the seventh fastest concluding run and improved two positions. She was timed in 1:41.030. Of interest was another Russian, Tatyana Ivanova, currently battling Britcher for third in the overall World Cup ranking heading into the sprint season finale on Sunday,

Ivanova wound up just ahead of Britcher in the race – taking eighth place – thus trimming a few points off the American’s advantage which now stands at 37 points.

Sweeney, a 2018 member of Team USA, is ranked 13th currently, but has made it clear that her goals are geared toward Olympic and World Championship medals.

DOUBLES

German doubles Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, in similar fashion to Geisenberger, ran away with their fourth World Cup crown in the discipline. Mathematically, they, too, cannot be caught on Sunday.

However, Germany was dominated by the home team as Russian sleds finished 1-3-4. The team of Alexandr Denisev and Vladislav Antonov edged past the German duo by 0.05 of a second over the two legs and claimed their first career World Cup win.

Teammates Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov, who previously won silver and bronze in the Junior World Championships, picked up the bronze, marking their first World Cup medal. They were 0.19 from the winners.

The Russian triumph marked the first doubles race since the 2015-2016 campaign that was not captured by either Germany or Austria in a full-field event.

After Saturday’s silver medal at the Sanki Sliding Centre, Eggert and Benecken possess five gold medals and five silvers in 11 events. Like Geisenberger, they lead by over 200 points entering the last race.

Second place on the season belongs to Austrians Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller, who were sixth on Saturday. They will try to hold off Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt for second place in the Sochi sprint race. Wendl and Arlt settled for seventh place Saturday, marking the first time they have lost at this venue, a record dating back to 2013.

A full day awaits the luge world on Sunday. It begins with men’s singles and includes U.S. athletes Tucker West and Jonny Gustafson. This will be followed by the sprint races, and finally the team relay, which is a make-up race from the Altenberg postponement due to heavy snowfall.

A record total of 41 hours of World Cup coverage this season will come to an end in the coming days. The Sochi competitions will air on Olympic Channel Saturday and Sunday nights from 7-8 PM ET, followed by NBC Sports Network Monday 11 PM ET to midnight.

RESULTS AND STANDINGS