Hamlin 6th, Mortensen/Terdiman 10th as World Cup season enters final weekend
SIGULDA, Latvia – In atypically warm winter conditions for this region near the Baltic Sea, Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin led the USA Luge effort Saturday with a sixth place result in Sigulda. The race marked the final two-heat singles event of the season. Earlier, Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman finished 10th in the last traditional doubles competition.
Hamlin, a four-time Olympian, struggled with several late curves in the opening heat as did many competitors. She was in 13th place at the break, but overcame that section of the track in the final run. The Remsen, N.Y. native, in her retirement season, posted the fifth best time in the finale and moved up significantly.
“I’ve been having issues out of both 14 and 15 all week, kind of par for the course here in Sigulda,” said Hamlin. “Yesterday I cleaned it up in my last training run so I was hoping to carry that over into today. Unfortunately, my timing was just a bit off on the exit of 15. I definitely was very determined to come back strong in the second run, and am very happy I was able to do so. It is always bittersweet knowing what could have been, but I’ll take sixth.”
American prospects for a medal were bright after one leg of the race, as Emily Sweeney stood in fourth place, just 0.02 of a second from the podium. She got her second run off to an even faster start, but an uneven line in turn 13 led to a spill that took the first time Olympian from Suffield, Conn. out of contention. She did finish the event, but was outside the top 15 and lost a chance for the bonus points afforded by the sprint race.
Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., a double winner last week in Lillehammer, was also victimized by curve 14, taking her out of the running. But to the two-time Olympian’s credit, she came back with the third fastest final heat and improved from 17th to 13th. Britcher will get the start in the team relay Sunday by virtue of her fastest single heat among U.S. women.
Saturday’s race was won by Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova despite the controversy swirling around her as a result of the Russian doping scandal.
For many years, Sigulda was a home track for Russia. Ivanova had to use all that local knowledge, since she only received three training runs here instead of the usual six. That was precipitated by a hearing in Switzerland Thursday morning, along with her coach Albert Demchenko, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The two are battling to be reinstated for the rapidly approaching Games in Pyeongchang. They have had their Sochi medals revoked by the IOC, together with a lifetime ban from the Olympic Games. The FIL, however, has ruled differently, saying there is no conclusive evidence to incriminate the two. Hence, they remain eligible to compete and coach in the World Cup and World Championships. A final verdict from CAS is expected by next weekend.
Ivanova, Sochi Olympic silver medalist in the team relay and holder of the Sigulda track record she set last season, had the two fastest runs of the day to hold off Natalie Geisenberger, of Germany, by 0.08 of a second. The winner clocked a combined 1 minute, 23.989 seconds.
Geisenberger, the defending Olympic gold medal winner who has been on the podium in all 12 races to date this winter, clinched her World Cup record sixth overall crown last weekend.
Sandra Robatscher, of Italy, the niece of six-time Olympic medalist Armin Zoeggler, climbed atop the World Cup podium for the first time in her singles career, with a time of 1:24.360.
Hamlin’s time of 1:24.481 put her within 0.12 of the podium. The four-time World Championship medalist is seventh in the overall standings with 493 World Cup points. Britcher posted 1:24.721, and improved from fifth to fourth place with 676 points. Just 19 points from second place, she’s in a four-way chase to finish runner-up in the season-long rankings headed into Sunday’s season-ender.
Germany’s Tatjana Huefner, a winner of Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals, crashed and did not finish. She’s second, only one point in front of teammate Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth on Saturday.
Mortensen and Terdiman were the lone doubles entries for USA Luge, and were 10th in the race that saw Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken use their ninth victory of the season to capture the World Cup overall title for the second straight year. After rebounding from last week’s DNF in Lillehammer, mathematically, they cannot be caught with just one race remaining.
Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., remain in fifth place heading into Sunday’s sprint cup race.
“Training for us this week was tough,” stated Mortensen. “We had a few crashes and varying ice conditions so it was hard to choose a set up for the race. All in all, it was not the best of races, but I’m okay with how we did. My focus is on the sprint and the relay tomorrow, and finishing out this week strong.”
Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., did not compete after Krewson suffered a training session crash earlier in the week. They will return to the ice next week in Nagano, Japan for a doubles pre-Olympic camp on the Spiral, the1998 Olympic track.
Eggert and Benecken, 2017 World Champions and prohibitive favorites heading into next month’s Olympics, had a pair of runs totaling 1:23.364.
Latvia, celebrating the 50th year of their federation, put three sleds in the top eight, led by triple Olympic medalists Andris and Juris Sics. The brothers, who put down the fastest second heat before a large home crowd, closed to within 0.05 of a second from Eggert and Benecken. Incredulously, it was their first World Cup medal at home.
Defending Olympic champions, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, also from Germany, collected the bronze medal in 1:23.590. The Americans clocked 1:24.239.
Wendl and Arlt are in second place, Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, fifth on Saturday, in third on the year. Krewson and Sherk are 14th ranked.
The Sigulda weekend concludes the World Cup season Sunday with all events: men’s singles starting at 2:15 AM ET, followed by the sprint cup and team relay. Follow the action live on www.olympicchannel.com.
NBCSN will carry two hours of World Cup coverage Sunday night at 10 PM ET.
For complete results and standings from today’s races, please log on to:
Notes to media:
After this weekend, USA Luge singles racers will work their way to Seoul and ultimately, Pyeongchang, arriving Feb. 4. The doubles athletes, who cannot get on the ice immediately in South Korea, will have a pre-Olympic camp in Nagano, Japan, site of the team’s first two Olympic medals 20 years ago.
Press conferences in Pyeongchang are set for Feb. 5 (singles) at 6 PM and Feb. 8 (doubles) at 4:30 PM. These will occur in the Mountain Press Center. All times local.
In addition, you will have access to our team in the mix zone after each training session and after each racing session at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, not between runs.
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org