USA Luge struggles on opening day of World Cup season
Krewson/Sherk 13th, Sweeney 14th top Americans
Germans in Olympic form with 5 of 6 medals in 2 races
IGLS, Austria – A promising first race of the new World Cup season Saturday vanished in several thousandths of a second for USA Luge, as 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, in second place going into the second and final heat, met the left wall of the start ramp, ending any chance for a podium finish.
The race, just outside Innsbruck, marked the Remsen, N.Y. racer’s return to the scene of the team record three World Championship medals she grabbed 10 months ago.
A brilliant, sunny day in the Austrian Tyrol, with temperatures in the low 30s, was matched by Hamlin’s opening heat, as she was just 0.03 of a second behind eventual German winner Natalie Geisenberger. It was quintessential Hamlin: a start that was quick enough to compete, before a blazing run down the 1964 and 1976 Olympic course.
But the American’s race ended quickly in the final leg with a mistake after pulling off the start handles on the short, steep Igls ramp. The 31-year-old U.S. athlete, a two-time World Champion, wound up 21st on the day.
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., took 14th place, about 0.5 of a second behind Geisenberger. Summer Britcher, 2014 Olympian from Glen Rock, Pa., and Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., did not qualify in Friday’s Nations Cup event.
Geisenberger’s two attempts down one of the World Cup tour’s shorter layouts totaled 1 minute, 20.488 seconds, good enough for her 39th career victory. She is the FIL’s all-time leading winner among women.
The German veteran led a women’s sweep as Dajana Eitberger was the silver medalist in 1:20.661. Vancouver Olympic gold medalist Tatjana Huefner, a 38-time World Cup race winner, rallied from eighth place Saturday with the fastest final leg which she launched with a track record start time. Huefner took bronze in 1:20.664.
Later in the day, the top American doubles team of Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa., third in the World Cup standings last season, crashed through the finish in the first heat. In the second run, they struggled with the tricky start configuration, and drifted back to 23rd place in a race captured by Germany’s 2017 World Champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken. They won in a two-heat time of 1:19.843.
Teammates Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt took the bronze in 1:20.258. Italy prevented a complete sweep when Ludwig Rieder and Patrick Rastner picked up the silver, 0.17 behind Eggert and Benecken, clocking 1:20.021.
After qualifying in the one-heat Nations Cup shootout, Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa., seventh at the break, finished 13th, and satisfied the lowest rung of Olympic qualification. Jake Hyrns of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza of Park City, Utah were 14th. Both sleds were about 0.9 of a second behind the winners.
The World Cup opener marked the first of five consecutive weekends of racing. The finale of that stretch will occur in Lake Placid on Dec. 15-16. USA Luge will announce its 10 Olympic nominees on the evening of Dec. 16 at 6 PM in the Conference Center in Lake Placid.
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