USA 6th in Altenberg relay

By Sandy Caligiore | Feb. 26, 2017, 10:36 a.m. (ET)


ALTENBERG, Germany – In a team relay event that could have gone any way for five nations, Latvia and Russia departed Altenberg Sunday with Viessmann World Cup crystal globes, while Austria, Canada and the United States were left to lament a close chase over the six events that came down to the final day.

Last week, Germany clinched the title in the team relay, presented by BMW, with four victories in those six starts. Thereafter, the five aforementioned teams were separated by merely five points, leaving World Cup overall second and third places entirely up for grabs at this track that is a few kilometers from the border of the Czech Republic.

The Latvians were led into second place in the race and runner-up overall by Elisa Cauce, who blistered the women’s field by nearly 0.1 of a second. The quartet was anchored by the doubles team of brothers Andris and Juris Sics, winners of three Olympic medals. The team sat in first place for four sleds, and were only overtaken by Germany, which closed the event and the 2016-2017 season.

Natalie Geisenberger, who captured her 38th career singles victory earlier in the day, and is now the International Luge Federation’s all-time women’s leader, set the opening pace for the winners. She was joined on the relay team by Felix Loch and doubles racers Tony Eggert and Sascha Benecken.

The foursome posted 2 minutes, 23.021 seconds. Latvia was 0.125 of a second behind, with Russia third at 2:23.230. This mirrored the final overall World Cup team relay standings as Germany concluded with 531 World Cup points, Latvia had 405, with Russia at 395.

The Americans landed in sixth place and each athlete could have said, “my bad”. Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., hit the right wall out of curve nine and deflected to the left wall. The Olympic bronze medalist and four-time World Championship medal winner started her day with an eighth place result in the singles race, and finished fourth in the overall tour rankings.

In the relay, she touched the pad and turned it over to Tucker West. The Ridgefield, Conn. racer, fourth in Saturday’s singles event, went down the right side of the start ramp. West, with not much experience racing from the lower start, rode a small burm and a bump, and made a good save to continue his run, but gave up a few fractions.

The team was in seventh place when he handed the baton to Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. The Saturday silver medalists, who will bring home a World Cup crystal Monday for placing third overall, went left down the ramp and lost time around the start curve.

The USA’s sixth place time of 2:23.584 also put them sixth on the season with 371 points. 

Geisenberger broke Hamlin’s two-year old track record in the opening heat, posting 52.185. Teammate Tatjana Heufner, battling Geisenberger for the all-time victory mark, went faster in the second run, registering 52.175 and wound up second by just 0.071 over the two heats.

The winner was timed in 1:44.364 and completed the campaign with 982 World Cup points for her fifth season-long crown. Huefner was second with 865 points, while Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova, fourth in Sunday’s competition, was the overall bronze medalist on the season with 683 points.

The German sweep was completed by Dajana Eitberger in 1:44.550.

Hamlin, a three-time Olympian, clocked a combined 1:45.104, and matched last year’s fourth place overall World Cup standing. She totaled 614 points.

Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., who worked around a wrist issue all season, ended her year with a 17th place race. She recorded 1:46.175, and took sixth with 564 points.

Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., did not compete. Instead, she ended her winter a week ago after Pyeongchang in order to get her shoulder evaluated. Britcher, the U23 World Champion, finished the year 10th on the World Cup list at 480.

Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., did not qualify in Friday’s Nations Cup. Germaine was 18th overall at 239.

The American contingent will return home Monday, with Norton seeding races in Lake Placid on March 18-19. This is part of the Olympic qualification process.


       1) Natalie Geisenberger, Germany, 982 points
       2) Tatjana Huefner, Germany, 865
       3) Tatyana Ivanova, Russia, 683

       4) Erin Hamlin, USA, 614

       6) Emily Sweeney, USA,
       10) Summer Britcher, USA, 480

       18) Raychel Germaine, USA, 239

             1) Germany, 531
             2) Latvia, 405
             3) Russia, 395
             6) USA, 371

Results and final World Cup standings