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US Luge team battles through snow in Bavaria

January 6, 2017
Lake Placid News

KOENIGSSEE, Germany - USA Luge plowed its way through a Bavarian snowstorm Thursday, and scored a total of three in the top 10 in World Cup doubles and women's singles races.

The Viessman World Cup tour traditionally opens the new year in Koenigssee and Berchtesgaden to conclude the 12 days of Christmas, which attracts many spectators, skiers and snowboarders at this time of the year.

After a week of colder, faster training conditions, the dumping snow, while certainly good for local commerce, was viewed as coal in the stockings of the gathered athletes.

Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Connecticut, led the American group in eighth place in a singles event that was relegated to one heat due to the weather. The International Luge Federation (FIL) jury stopped the second heat in mid-storm, "sighting" visibility and safety issues. Ironically, second heat times, prior to the stoppage, were faster than the opening leg.

"It was a pretty interesting race," Sweeney said. "They stopped the race because it was whiteout conditions here, so the athletes couldn't really see coming out of some of the curves. I ended up eighth because of it, which isn't a bad result. I'm OK with it. And really happy I didn't have to do another start because of my wrist. I'm still getting that recovery time in."

Sweeney's wrist, and continuing rehabilitation, led to her decision to give her spot in today's team relay to Remsen native Erin Hamlin.

The Sochi Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 world champion, Hamlin finished 10th in her first and only run of the day.

German World Cup leader and double Olympic medalist Natalie Geisenberger, fastest in the first and only leg in 51.178 seconds, accepted victory congratulations in the start house when the second run cancellation was announced.

Not far from her was Russia's Tatyana Ivanova, the silver medalist in 51.329, followed by another German, Tatjana Huefner, a winner of Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals. Huefner recorded 51.433.

Geisenberger and Huefner are 1-2 in the World Cup standings, respectively, with Alex Gough, of Canada, now in third place after placing sixth in Koenigssee.

World Cup doubles started the post-New Year resumption of the tour earlier in the day, with the USA's Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman gaining speed down the track in each heat, before settling into ninth place as they battled the snowfall.

"The sweeps were supposed to be every three sleds, and unfortunately the way our draw fell, we were at the back end of that sweep every time," said Mortensen, the front driver from Huntington Station. "After looking at the times a little bit, it might have been a tenth (of a second) per run if you missed the sweep. We missed it twice, so that didn't help us at all today."

Snow was accumulating at the start, which in Koenigssee is long, flat and exposed. Being on the right side of the sweep there, and elsewhere, was important.

"I was very happy to see that we were in position to get the sweep in the second run," said Terdiman, the back driver. But a decision was made to change the sweep schedule. "Then it ended up being after us again, so I feel we got screwed out of 0.2 of a second today, which would have moved us up to sixth place. It's quite annoying and disheartening."

The top U.S. doubles team, posting 1:43.002, could take comfort in the fact that they entered the race fourth in the overall World Cup rankings, and ended the event in the same position. It's the best season of the three since they joined forces after competing in the Sochi Winter Games with different partners.

On home ice, Germany executed a sweep of the podium, led by Olympic and World Champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, who are undefeated here going back to 2009.

The winners came from second place at the intermission to overtake World Cup leaders Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, winners of five of seven races to date. Wendl and Arlt had two runs totaling 1 minute, 41.575 seconds, just 0.07 in front of Eggert and Benecken. The bronze medal went to Robin Geueke and David Gamm in 1:42.357.

Eggert and Benecken have an 88-point advantage in the season-long standings over Wendl and Arlt, who have captured gold in two of the last three World Cup competitions. Geueke and Gamm are third.

Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk were 11th in 1:43.595 and sit in 16th place in the overall World Cup standings. Jake Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza were 20th in 1:44.665 and are tied for 13th on the season.

Sweeney's one and only run was timed in 51.802. The points bring her to fifth place overall, right behind Hamlin, who registered 51.839 and slipped one spot to fourth place in the tour standings.

Summer Britcher was 18th in 52.166. The 2014 Olympic team member is ninth on the season. Raychel Germaine took 20th in 52.528 and is 13th on the World Cup list.

The weather system was expected to depart by today, creating race conditions that will resemble the mid-week ice. That will be welcomed for the men's singles athletes who will competed this morning, to be followed by the team relay.



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