KOENIGSSEE, Germany — Glen Rock's Summer Britcher was the top American finisher on Saturday during a World Cup women's singles luge race in Germany.
Britcher finished fifth and Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Connecticut, took seventh for the U.S. team. Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, New York, was 11th.
USA Luge returned to the final four World Cup events with its 10-member Olympic team, including three women, three men and two doubles teams. That includes Britcher, who is looking to improve on her 15th-place finish from the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Britcher will compete in the 2018 Winter Games in a month in South Korea.
Britcher had the third fastest starts of each heat in the competition in Germany. Had she prevented a skid in the chicane, she might have finished higher than fifth in the opening attempt. Britcher followed that with another fifth-place, and a combined time of 1 minute, 42.160 seconds.
“I was pretty happy. The past couple of days I started really enjoying sliding here again,” said Britcher on the USA Luge website. “It’s a feeling I hadn’t felt here in a couple of years. The past couple of years have gone fine as far as my runs consistency and the quality of the races, but I haven’t enjoyed the feeling on the sled here, and I didn’t expect to get that good feeling back. But I noticed I was sliding really well and just enjoying the track and enjoying the environment here. I just wanted to have fun today and put together two clean runs. I’m very happy to end up in fifth place.”
The World Cup circuit continues in Oberhof, Germany, followed by Lillehammer, Norway and Sigulda, Latvia. Those competitions will determine Olympic seeding.
Natalie Geisenberger, the defending Olympic champion, won for the fifth time this winter, marking her 42nd career World Cup triumph. She had the two best times on her home track. Geisenberger had an aggregate time of 1:41.397, which was 0.1 of a second faster than her teammate, Dajana Eitberger, who took silver despite hitting a wall early in the first heat.
Another German, Jessica Tiebel, a junior world champion, took third and Switzerland's Martina Kocher was fourth.
Geisenberger has the World Cup lead with 710 points, well in front of Eitberger’s 518 and Germany's Tatjana Huefner’s 515. Alex Gough of Canada is fourth with 503 points, followed by Britcher in fifth with 396.
Britcher helps Americans take silver in team relay: On Sunday, in the team relay event, Britcher helped the U.S. team capture the silver medal. For the Americans, it was their first World Cup medal of the season in the event, and the first since scoring a World Championship silver last winter in Igls, Austria.
Italy took the gold medal by 0.2 of a second over the U.S., with Austria in third. Germany, the World Cup leader, was disqualified when the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt barged (started their run before the gate opened) coming off the handles.
Britcher paved the U.S. path in the team relay with the fastest women’s heat of the race.
“That run was pretty good,” she said on the USA Luge website. “I knew I put together two clean runs yesterday. I was trying to have fun. The team relay is a really fun event. It was good going into it with the confidence and consistency and just knowing you want to do the same thing.
“I’m a big fan of the team relay. It’s definitely a lot of fun. It’s so unique because in some ways it’s a lot more stressful than an individual race, but in a lot of ways, it’s less stressful, so it’s a very interesting race. It’s a ton of fun.”
The other members of the U.S. relay team were Tucker West and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen/Jayson Terdiman.