Team USA women going for record ‘triple’ in doubles luge

Emily Sweeney, left, and Summer Britcher pose for photos following the Viessmann Luge World Cup in Lake Placid in 2018. (News file photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — The United States is making history by becoming the first country to send three women’s doubles luge teams to the Luge World Cup 2022/2023.

Team USA, which now includes two Olympians, is throwing the spotlight on women’s doubles luge, which is set to make its Olympic debut at the Milano Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games.

Power of three

Summer Britcher, 28, a three-time Olympian with five World Cup career victories — the most in U.S. luge singles history — and Emily Sweeney, 29, a two-time Olympian and 2019 World Championship bronze medalist, will make their competitive debut at the World Cup opener in Innsbruck, Austria on Dec. 3.

While racing as singles athletes will be their primary responsibility this season, both are taking every advantage of the opportunity and combining their experience.

They will join Team USA’s doubles specialists Chevonne Forgan, 21, and Sophie Kirkby, 21, and the team of Maya Chan, 19, and Reannyn Weiler, 20, who switched from singles to doubles five years ago.

Doubles focus

Team USA is already a force to be reckoned with in women’s doubles. In January, Forgan and Kirkby secured bronze at the first Women’s Doubles World Championship in Winterberg, Germany, with Chan and Weiler finishing fourth, just a tenth of a second behind their teammates.

With Britcher and Sweeney now in the mix, along with a formidable reputation, long experience and thirst for winning, the sky is the limit for Team USA.

“It’s been a lot of fun teaming up with Summer in a completely new way,” Sweeney said in a statement. “We’ve been teammates for years, but being on the same sled solidifies our teammate relationship even more. Training together brings a whole new level of motivation and encouragement, and while it feels completely new at times, I’ve already seen our experience from singles transfer over to doubles, which is really encouraging.”

Closing gender gap

With one eye on the upcoming World Cup season and the other on the next Winter Games — the most gender-balanced in history — Forgan is ecstatic with the growth of women’s doubles.

“Seeing women’s doubles at Milano-Cortina 2026 is a dream come true for female lugers around the world,” Forgan said. “It’s also a major relief to us too! We’ve given up singles to dedicate ourselves to doubles.”

Kirkby said she is especially thrilled to be part of this movement to close the gender gap.

“It’s exciting to see the International Olympic Committee equalizing a category of our sport that has been male-dominated up to now,” Kirkby said. “This will attract younger generations of female lugers and open up possibilities for us to continue in the sport as coaches and in other leadership positions.”

Doubles journey

It’s now been five years since Chan and Weiler first experienced doubles together and it’s been an adventure ever since.

“I clearly remember the day on a curve, halfway down the track, during our singles training run,” Chan said. “We were randomly paired up by our coach. We laughed a lot and had no idea what to expect. We definitely got hooked from there.”

By the time Chan and Weiler had reached their first competitive year of doubles, they had made a strong impression.

“FIL had just decided on the standardized sled. The coaches by then assumed we knew a lot,” Weiler said. “At one track, we were simply handed our sled in pieces in different bags. That memory sticks with me because we were just 14 — it was all such a learning curve at a young age.”

New hopes, new horizons

Now, with the new chapter for women’s doubles open, several more chapters await for this discipline. First of all, women’s doubles will feature in Team Relay at the 2026 Games.

“This is another opportunity to earn an Olympic medal, increase gender equity and visibility for our sport,” Kirkby said. “And everybody loves Team Relay.”

The FIL World Cup 2022/2023 season will also see the women launch from the same height as the men at some legs.

“We’re very excited,” Weiler said. “This will be the first time women will go from the same height as the men. We’ll all be marking this exciting moment in history in women’s doubles.”

More athletes are considering women’s doubles for the first time.

“At this point in my singles career, I may not see improvements in my sliding week to week let alone run to run, but in doubles, we are beginners,” Britcher said. “It’s been cool to learn, improve, and work with a teammate, which is something I have missed during my singles luge career.

“Being so established in singles, we are able to look at both of our careers, start to now,” she added. “From the highs and lows, what worked and what didn’t, and to be strategic about how we train and approach every obstacle.”

The World Cup action kicks off from Dec. 3-4 in Innsbruck-Igls, Austria, with the nine-race season.

World Championships are slated to take place in Oberhof, Germany on Jan. 27-29, 2023.

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