Glen Rock's Summer Britcher enjoyed a career weekend in World Cup luge action in Winterberg, Germany.
The Susquehannock High School graduate took third in a women's singles race and second in a women's sprint race.
Those finishes should help Britcher in her efforts to earn a second straight berth on the U.S. Olympic luge team.
Britcher finished 15th in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The 2018 Winter Games are set for PyeongChang in South Korea from Feb. 9, 2018, through Feb. 25, 2018.
Natalie Geisenberger won the World Cup women’s singles race, holding off fellow German star Tatjana Heufner by about one-third of a second while Britcher was third. American Erin Hamlin took fourth, which was enough for her to officially clinch her fourth trip to the Olympics.
In the sprint race that followed, American Emily Sweeney got her first World Cup win, with Britcher second — her second medal of the day — to give the U.S. a gold-silver finish. Geisenberger took the bronze.
The gold-silver sprint finish by Sweeney and Britcher was the best showing by USA Luge in any singles race on a European track. The U.S. has taken two medals in races before, and Hamlin, Sweeney and Britcher swept the podium at a World Cup in Lake Placid, New York, two seasons ago, but American women never had a day like this across the Atlantic until now.
Sweeney had four World Cup medals before Sunday, all of them silver, one of them coming in a relay. Britcher had six medals, all of them coming in North America. But now Sweeney has a win on her resume, and Britcher went from possessing zero World Cup medals from races on European tracks to winning two in the span of about an hour.
And in the sprint, they both beat German star Natalie Geisenberger — the overwhelming favorite for Olympic gold, and a winner now of 105 overall medals in her World Cup career between singles and relay events.
Sweeney went to third in the World Cup overall women’s standings, Britcher — who didn’t even qualify for the opening race of the season — moved up to sixth and Hamlin is ninth.
“So today was my first World Cup race of the season,” Britcher said on the teamusa.org website. “I was happy to have two good runs. That sounds pretty cliché, but I realized last weekend that I was putting too much pressure on myself, and not having as much fun as I should be having. So today at the start for all three runs, I was focusing on having a good time, and having the best run that I could have. So when that ended up putting me on the podium, I was very happy."
Returning to North America: After next weekend’s stop in Altenberg, Germany, the Americans return to familiar North American tracks to close out the first half of the season.
They’ll race in Calgary, Alberta, on the weekend of Dec. 9, then head home to Lake Placid for racing on Dec. 15 and 16. And having familiarity with those tracks means the U.S. should have ample opportunity to further move up the points standings.
“Just like bad things roll downhill, so do good things and good experiences,” Britcher said. “We’re building momentum.”
Hamlin is the fifth USA Luge athlete to make four Olympic teams, joining women’s racer Cameron Myler and doubles athletes Mark Grimmette, Brian Martin and Chris Thorpe. Grimmette was a five-time Olympian.
“I could not be happier,” said Hamlin, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world champion who will retire after this season — confirming her long-awaited decision after clinching the Olympic spot.
“A good day in Germany is always a great day for racing,” Hamlin added. “We still had a good day even with some disappointing runs. That shows how high the bar is set for us now and how our standards have changed.”
Potential to do something special: Sweeney believes the Americans can do something special in Korea.
“Our team is very capable of coming back with hardware from the games and that’s the goal this year,” Sweeney said. “It’s not to have these little wins — which is great, and I am excited, and I know that I should feel very grateful. I am very grateful for that opportunity to be on top of the podium. Not everyone gets that opportunity. I’m just blinded by what my goal is this season, I think.”
Geisenberger’s win was the 40th of her career in a World Cup singles event. Including the sprint bronze, she now has 81 World Cup singles medals and 105 World Cup medals overall, not including 15 medals that she’s collected at past Olympics and world championships.
It was the seventh time she’s won singles gold in Winterberg, and the eighth time that she and Huefner have taken the top two spots in a race on the historic track.
Also Sunday, Germany picked up another gold when Felix Loch won the men’s sprint. Semen Pavlichenko of Russia was second and Nico Gleirscher of Austria was third.
And in the doubles sprint, Germany — just as it did in the full doubles race Saturday — swept the medals. Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt took gold, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won silver and Robin Johannes Geueke and David Gamm got the bronze. Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman of the U.S. were fourth, just 0.014 seconds away from a podium finish.