SIGULDA, Latvia – USA Luge women, led by 2014 and 2018 Olympian Summer Britcher, finished 10-12-14 Sunday as the Eberspacher World Cup luge weekend in Latvia came to an end. Also, on the final day, the home teams of Latvia and Russia showed their domination on this track, while the American entry in the team relay was disqualified.
Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., after a pair of fourth ranked start times, was 10th and ninth in both heats on this demanding luge-centric track in the Baltic region. Her result was a marked improvement over last week’s 15th in Koenigssee, Germany, her first World Cup race of this COVID season.
Park City racers Brittney Arndt and Ashley Farquharson were 12th and 14th, respectively. Farquharson placed third in Friday’s Nations Cup qualifying. Emily Sweeney, 10th last weekend, returned home to Lake Placid and did not compete in Sigulda as per orders from the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
Later, in the team relay, Britcher teamed with Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. and the doubles team of Pyeongchang Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer of Salt Lake City and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. Britcher raced the lead leg for USA Luge. After the final curve, her sled went off line causing her to miss the touch pad, leading to a disqualification.
Six in the top eight of Sunday’s singles race came from either Russia or Latvia, the two nations that call Sigulda home. Russian winner Tatyana Ivanova overcame Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger in the second leg, relegating the German to her eighth consecutive silver medal in as many starts. For the 29-year-old Ivanova, it was her 15th career World Cup victory and came by a margin of 0.05 of a second.
"A big thank you to our coaches, the mechanics, the federation and everyone who supports us," remarked a grateful winner. Her teammate, Victoriia Demchenko, scored the bronze medal for her first podium of the season.
Geisenberger, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, has ridden her runner-up finishes to the top spot in the overall World Cup standings with four races remaining. She has accrued 680 points, with compatriot Julia Taubitz, the defending World Cup champion, second at 651. Taubitz was fourth on Sunday. Rounding out the German top three in the rankings is Dajana Eitberger, the 2018 Olympic silver medal winner. She was 11th on the day and third on the season with 479 World Cup points. Ivanova is in fifth place on the strength of two wins this year.
Russia, Latvia and Germany took the medals in that order. The gold medal winners were led by Ivanova racing the lead leg. Despite having less than stellar change times, their sleds ran fast and topped Latvia by 0.16 of a second. Germany, with the 2014 Olympic gold medal team of Geisenberger, Felix Loch, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, had the best change times but sacrificed the advantage going down the technical Sigulda course. The Germans were another 0.02 in arrears. Nevertheless, the winningest nation in the team relay since the advent of this exciting event remains in first place overall with 415 points. Russia trails by 40 points (375) followed by Latvia (330). Austria, with 325 World Cup points, was knocked out of the top three on Sunday when they, too, were disqualified as Madeleine Egle also missed the touch pad.
The USA Luge quartet was the same unit that tallied a 2020 World Championship bronze medal in Sochi, followed by a World Cup silver medal at the finals in Koenigssee. The latter site will host the 2021 World Championships Jan. 29-31.
The World Cup tour now packs its bags, equipment and COVID kits for the charter flights back to Germany on Monday morning. The next stop is a return to Oberhof, which was awarded a second race when Lake Placid surrendered its World Cup due to the pandemic. The events in the Adirondacks were slated for Jan.15-17. Oberhof, which has been blasted recently with copious amounts of snow, will be a winter sports hotbed next weekend as it will simultaneously host a World Cup biathlon meet.