Summer Britcher continues a strong month to capture fourth career World Cup gold medal and third podium this season
LILLEHAMMER, Norway – In a month in which Summer Britcher has displayed a consistent sliding groove, the 23-year-old from Glen Rock, Pa. overcame Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger Saturday in the second heat to capture her fourth career victory in a World Cup luge event.
Britcher’s three previous titles all came two seasons ago, before an ailing shoulder slowed her last year. But this past spring and summer, the two-time Olympian got stronger physically and quicker at the start. She led the field in the first heat with the fastest time off the start handles.
“I felt a little bit different last night,” stated Britcher. “This was a different situation for me. Every time, other than this, that I’ve been on the podium, I didn’t expect it. There were either weather changes, or I changed equipment last minute and I was kind of surprised to find myself there. But after the week of training and after the final A seed training run, this was the first time that I had to go to sleep knowing that if I performed well, and if have two good runs, I have a good chance of winning. That was definitely a good spot to be in mentally. I’m glad I have that experience now going forward.”
In this snow-laden, landlocked region, USA Luge doubles teams placed eighth and 11th later in the day, led by two-time Olympians Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., and Olympic rookies Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa.
Germany grabbed the doubles win, as the dominant sled of the past two seasons, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken lowered the track record in the opening run and did the same to the start record in the final heat to take their eighth gold medal of the Olympic winter, and 31st in a storied career.
After racing her way onto the 2018 Olympic team in the first half of the World Cup season, Britcher returned to the tour in early January and recorded solid runs on German tracks in Koenigssee and Oberhof where she was fifth and sixth, respectively.
In Lillehammer, the 1994 Olympic course that is viewed as neutral, she trailed Geisenberger, the defending Olympic champion, by just 0.01 of a second after the first leg. The American turned the tables on a hard, fast racing surface to win the final run by 0.04 and claim the victory.
Each fall, USA Luge opens its fall on-ice training at this location. The winner said she was helped by taking some runs from the higher start.
“In the past when we’ve come to train here in Lillehammer, I’ve made a point of going up and training from the top of the track with the men and training at higher speeds, higher pressures. And I think that really gave me some additional confidence going from the women’s start with less speed that I could be confident with really any line going down the track, and I think that gave me a bit of an advantage.”
Britcher had a combined time of 1 minute, 35.266 seconds, topping the German by 0.03 of a second. It was Britcher’s third medal of the 2017-2018 campaign. Meanwhile, Geisenberger’s second place result puts her on the cusp of her sixth consecutive World Cup overall championship. Julia Taubitz, also of Germany, took the bronze medal, 0.26 behind Britcher. A third German, Tatjana Huefner, who has captured all three Olympic medals, was fourth.
Of the 10 women’s combined World Cup singles and sprints held to date, Germany has won eight of them. The other two were captured by Americans: Britcher here and Emily Sweeney in the Winterberg, Germany sprint, with her teammate second.
Sochi bronze medalist and four-time Olympian Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., was ninth in 1:35.756. Hamlin has not visited the podium this season, coming as close as fourth in the Winterberg singles competition and in the Lake Placid sprint race. Of note, she did not have a World Cup podium in 2013-2014 prior to her landmark Olympic medal.
Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., got off to a slow start, but rallied in the final run, picking up five spots to finish 14th in 1:35.952 and qualifying for the Sunday sprint that is reserved for just the top 15. Sweeney, headed to her first Olympics, had the sixth best final leg. She missed last week’s race in Oberhof due to a strained neck, but did not miss a beat in Lillehammer, taking all six training runs prior to race day.
Geisenberger’s World Cup leading total of 880 points, helped by five gold medals, is 235 clear of Huefner. Teammate Dajana Eitberger crashed out of Saturday’s race as she exited curve 13 but remains third overall with 634.
Britcher is fifth with 546 points; Hamlin is tied for seventh with 393; Sweeney is ninth at 364. Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., is training in Lake Placid this month. She is ranked 36th with 51 points.
Eggert and Benecken, the 2017 World Champions, will be declared the overwhelming Olympic favorites by the climate controlled experts, and rightfully so. Their winning time down the Hunderfossen track was a combined 1:34.586. They remain atop the standings with 970 points.
Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, who were inactive a year ago due to a Fischler’s circulatory issues, have made it all the way back to the podium. They took the silver medal in 1:34.716 in collecting their sixth World Cup medal of the year. The duo is third in the tour rankings with 631 points.
The bronze medal went to Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt in 1:35.101. The defending Olympic champions are second in the overall World Cup standings with 722 points. Germany’s third team of Robin Geuke and David Gamm were disqualified for an overweight sled.
Mortensen and Terdiman clocked 1:35.587. They are in sixth place with 440 points.
“Today was rough,” said Mortensen prior to turning his attention to Sunday’s sprints. “We had higher expectations, but unfortunately, our first run was not very good. The run didn’t start well and then the lines were off throughout it. I wouldn’t call second run a very good run either, but we made it down relatively cleanly, and the time was good. We are looking forward to tomorrow and another opportunity to put down a fast run before we leave Norway.”
“Like Matt said, neither run was what we want to bring to race day,” remarked Terdiman. “A positive from today is that we showed great speed in the second run. We still have yet to show our full potential with two great race runs, but the speed is there. I have no doubt that in the weeks ahead we will find that magical place where everything starts going right for us. This sport is 90 percent mental, and I believe we have it in us to bring greatness on race day. On to the Sprint World Cuptomorrow.”
Krewson and Sherk, who will retire after the Games in Pyeongchang, totaled 1:35.824. They are ranked 15th at 272 points. Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich., and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah, also continue training in Lake Placid this month. Overall, the team is in 16th place with 235 World Cup points.
The Lillehammer World Cup weekend concludes Sunday with men’s singles starting at 3:15 AM ET, followed by the sprint cup. Join Tim Singer and guest color analysts for all the action live on www.olympicchannel.com.
For complete results, standings and interviews from today’s races, please log on to:
Notes to media:
Video interview of Summer Britcher after today’s race available upon request.
USA Luge will have press conferences in South Korea on 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.
Finally, you are invited to participate in a media call on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 1 PM ET.
For more information on the Fastest Sport on Ice®, log on to www.usaluge.org