Summer Britcher didn't win a gold medal in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The Glen Rock teen didn't even place in the top 10 in women's singles luge.

In fact, she ended up 15th among 31 competitors.

To the disinterested observer, that may not seem all that impressive.

Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll soon discover that her finish was more than just impressive, it bordered on the unbelievable.

York County, after all, is not exactly a hotbed of winter sports. There's only one ski resort in the county, and the nearest luge track is more than 400 miles away in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Before Britcher, York County had never produced a single Winter Olympics athlete. Not one.

So the odds were definitely stacked against her, and she still made history.

The fact that Britcher even took up luge is the unlikeliest of stories.

During a family ski trip to Ski Liberty in western Adams County in 2006, the Britchers heard about the Verizon Luge Challenge, inviting anyone 10 and up to compete. Just 12, Britcher immediately caught the attention of Gordy Sheer, a former U.S. Olympic silver medalist in men's doubles luge. He liked what he saw from Britcher and recommended that she pursue the sport in Lake Placid, home of the U.S. Luge Association.

She took his advice and immediately fell in love with sport and its heart-racing combination of straight-out speed and dangerous twists turns.


Advertisement

Seven years later the 19-year-old is an Olympian.

She didn't medal at Sochi, but her performance was still encouraging. She entered the event hoping for a top-10 finish, which she narrowly missed. But Britcher hasn't celebrated her 20th birthday yet. Her best luge performances should be in her future.

Britcher need only look to her teammate, Erin Hamlin, for inspiration. Hamlin finished 12th in the 2006 Turin Olympics when she was 19, the same age that Britcher is now. She took a slight step back in 2010, when she finished 16th at the Vancouver Olympics. This year, however, Hamlin broke through for a third-place finish. Her bronze is the first-ever medal in women's singles luge by an American.

There's no guarantee, of course, that Britcher will follow a similar path. In fact, there's no guarantee she'll ever compete in another Olympics. She qualified for this year's Games by the narrowest of margins and the U.S. luge program seems to be getting better, and more competitive, with each passing year.

But no matter what happens in the future, Britcher will always have the memories of Sochi — as will all of us here in York County.

We watched as she negotiated the difficult Sochi track with amazing technical skill.

We watched as she handled a national television interview with charm, thoughtfulness and eloquence.

And we watched as she smiled from ear to ear at nearly every opportunity.

"I had a blast," she told the national TV interviewer after her strong second run on Monday.

Well, Summer, so did we.

You made Glen Rock proud.

You made York County proud.

And you made America proud.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.