USA Luge’s Erin Hamlin wins third world championship medal, taking silver in Austria
Britcher 4th in singles, wins U23 gold medal
IGLS, Austria – The dream weekend for Erin Hamlin continued Saturday in sunny Igls, Austria as the Remsen, N.Y. native captured a World Championship silver medal in the traditional two-run singles race.
Hamlin was second to German winner Tatjana Huefner after the first leg and remained there in the final heat to collect her third career World Championship medal and the 12th in USA Luge history. She won sprint gold on Saturday and was the 2009 singles World Champion.
“It’s awesome. I’m very excited,” exclaimed the three-time Olympian and 2014 Sochi bronze medalist. “I knew I could do well here. I just had to keep my cool and slide like I know how. I’m very thankful I was able to do that and glad the weather held up. It was starting to get warmer and warmer, and I was getting nervous.
“We knew early in the week that it was supposed to warm up so we were definitely very prepared for it. Going to the race, we kept a close watch on the temperatures, the ice temps and the humidity just to see if we needed to do any adjustments. We did some from training just to make sure I kept getting good speed on the track and thankfully every decision we made turned out to be a good one.”
USA Luge entered the World Championships having accumulated 10 World Cup medals to date and a collection of fourth place finishes. When asked afterward about these successes in the short and long term, Hamlin pointed to the team aspect of luge.
“Probably our awesome coaches. They’ve been doing a lot of work on our sleds, and making sure that we have everything we need, to be able to do what we do, which is to just go down the hill and slide really well. So I knew going into the races, yesterday and today, that all I had to do was my job, which is to slide fast. That, coupled with a good sled setup, ended up being a great combo, so I definitely have to say that. Also, the weather held up just enough for the ice to stay cold enough and in good enough condition that our sleds didn’t start to hate it.”
Kim McRae, of Canada, took the bronze medal, her first career World Championship podium. McRae reached down for a massive second heat rally, elevating from 11th place to third.
Hamlin’s teammate, Summer Britcher, a 2014 Olympian, was fourth, missing the podium by just 0.03 of a second. However, the Glen Rock, Pa. athlete won the U23 World Championship after taking the silver in that division at the 2016 worlds in a season that saw her win three World Cup races.
“My first run was near perfect,” she remarked. “It was the best run I’ve ever had here at Igls, but in my second run, I had a few mistakes. Still I was able to move up from sixth place to finish in fourth place, and first in the U23 category.”
The younger division is a race-within-a-race format that is held annually.
“Last year I came in second by a small margin. This was my last chance. I turn 23 in two months, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
Huefner captured her fifth World Championship to go with Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals. She had run times of 39.829 and 39.883 seconds for a combined 1 minute, 19.712 seconds.
Hamlin’s silver medal total was 1:19.925, followed by McRae in 1:19.952. Britcher posted 1:19.987.
“This is a sport where we’re trying to be perfect,” continued Britcher. “It’s timed to the thousandth of a second, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. I’m just slowly working my way up there.”
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., fourth in the Saturday sprint race, wound up 15th in 1:20.411. Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., took 16th in 1:20.419.
Huefner’s teammate, Natalie Geisenberger, the defending Olympic gold medal winner and 2016 World Champion, struggled in the first heat on the short Igls track where one or two minor miscues will take racers out of the money.
Such was the story for Geisenberger, who was an uncharacteristic 17th after one heat. But she hurtled to sixth place in the final run with a track record 39.822. She was also off the podium in the women’s sprint.
The doubles race was swept by Germany, holding to the form they’ve displayed the past few seasons. Ironically, they achieved the same medal haul at the worlds 30 years ago here in the Tyrol region.
Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken took the World Championship gold medal by 0.2 of a second, in a season that has seen them win seven of nine World Cups to date, along with a bronze medal Friday in the World Championship sprint race. Igs is the course where they began their doubles careers.
After three World Championship silver medals, this was their first gold. Their two runs, including a track record 39.468 opening heat, led to a 1:19.005 total.
Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, the sprint doubles World Champions, won the silver medal in 1:19.211. Robin Geuke and David Gamm picked up the bronze medal in 1:19.390.
Igls favorites Peter Penz and Georg Fischler were in fourth, 0.01 from another podium performance. The Austrians took the silver medal in Friday’s sprint doubles event as Fischler made his return from a diagnosis of myocarditis.
USA Luge had one of three sleds qualify for the second heat, with Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y., and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., finishing 14th in 1:20.078. They will get the anchor leg in the team relay on Sunday with Hamlin leading off. The men’s athlete will be determined Sunday morning.
Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., third in the World Cup standings, had issues at the top of the opening run, and finished 21st. Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich., and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah, placed 22nd.
Sunday’s third and final day of competition begins at 5 AM EST with men’s singles, followed by the team relay.
All World Championship and World Cup races are being streamed live by the FIL with Tim Singer calling the action, accompanied by guest analysts. You can access the coverage via www.usaluge.org.
NBC Sports Network will air a one-hour program on Sunday, January 29, from 3:30-4:30 PM EST. Commentary will be provided by Bill Doleman and 2014 U.S. Olympian Kate Hansen.
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