OBERHOF, Germany – USA Luge departs the Eberspacher World Cup tour stop in Oberhof with its best result of a truncated season as Summer Britcher picked up a seventh-place result in the Sunday morning singles event. It was the only race of the day.
The Oberhof weekend was the second visit of the season to this region in Thuringia. The original schedule had these races in Lake Placid, but the pandemic interceded and forced the entire World Cup circuit to be contested in Europe, predominantly Germany.
The United States has had four top 10 performances since returning to the World Cup – two of them from Britcher - after sitting out the first half of the year due to the travel restrictions created by the coronavirus. The doubles team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman were 10th last week in Sigulda, and Emily Sweeney was 10th in her lone appearance two weeks ago in Koenigssee. However, the 2018 Olympian and 2019 World Championship bronze medalist will return to action next weekend in Igls after her orders were approved by the Army’s World Class Athlete Program of which Sweeney is a member.
Britcher, a 2014 and 2018 Olympian, set the course record in winning Friday’s Nations Cup race on a weekend where colder temperatures led to fast ice, very good conditions and touched off a litany of record times in all disciplines. Britcher’s two runs on Sunday bettered her effort on Friday, but so did a lineup of other athletes as no fewer than 13 competitors went faster, including her teammate Ashley Farquharson.
Approximately 48 hours after the Nations Cup, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger left with the track record in winning for the 50th time in her brilliant career. The American’s two runs put her 0.5 of a second behind the winner.
Britcher, from Glen Rock, Pa., did not get off to the best start in the first run as she pulled left from the handles and squandered valuable fractions. By the time she hit the finish, Britcher gained back much of the lost time, but ninth place was too distant to realistically eye the podium. Her second heat was eighth best and gave her an overall time of 1 minute, 22.640 seconds. This short luge only track, with no time to make up for errors, makes Oberhof unforgiving.
“Unfortunately, I had some mistakes on the start in my first run, a pretty big mistake that cost me,” said the five-time World Cup winner. “But I was able to rally and had an okay run after that. Not really the runs I wanted but I had a great time racing today.”
So did Geisenberger, who ended her streak of eight straight World Cup silver medals with her first victory of the season. As she crossed the finish line, German coaches all displayed the number 50 on their phones and tablets to mark the occasion.
“The 50th victory means that I was quite good a time or two," she stated. “I'm especially happy today because it's the first one after the birth of my son."
She remains in first place on the season with 780 points after nine of 12 events. Defending World Cup champion, Julia Taubitz, also of Germany, was fifth in the race and remains second overall with 706 points. The emerging Madeleine Egle of Austria is now third ranked on the year. Egle collected a silver medal Sunday, 0.2 of a second from Geisenberger, marking the Austrian’s career best result to date. She grabbed the start record in the process. The 1-3-5 German finish included bronze medalist Anna Berreiter, 0.01 behind Egle.
Farquharson, of Park City, Utah, was headed to a top 10 opening leg until dropping time late in the heat and settling for 15th place. She rallied in the final attempt that brought her to a 10th place result.
"The two runs were virtually the same, with minor mistakes in different places," stated Farquharson. "We did change my sled set up a little bit before the second run to be more attuned to the ice conditions."
Fellow Parkite Brittney Arndt was 19th.
Only two World Cup stops remain on the season schedule – Jan. 23-24 in Igls for the second time this winter, and the World Cup finals Feb. 6-7 in St. Moritz.
“I’m definitely looking forward to Igls,” added Britcher. “It’s a track I’ve found success on in the past so I’m excited to race there and excited to build into World Championships.” The highlight of the year occurs Jan. 29-31 back in Koenigssee. The event was moved from Whistler, B.C. due to COVID-19.
NBC Sports Network will have coverage from Oberhof tonight (Jan. 17) from midnight to 1 AM ET.