LILLEHAMMER, Norway — USA Luge racer Summer Britcher completed a World Cup weekend sweep in Sunday’s single-heat sprint event in Lillehammer, and secured the fifth individual race victory of her blossoming World Cup career.
The result, against a cold and snowy backdrop, also propelled the 23-year-old to third place in the overall World Cup standings.
The Olympian from Glen Rock won the sprint race after grabbing the gold medal 24 hours earlier in the traditional two-run competition.
“I felt pretty good about the run,” Britcher said on the USA Luge website. “I felt like my start could have been stronger. The 20-second start clock instead of the 30-second start clock caught me a little bit off guard, and I didn’t feel fully prepared to give as powerful a start as I know that I can. But luckily, it’s a sprint race and the start’s not super crucial. But overall, I thought the run was pretty good. Some spots were a little bit better than (Saturday), some spots were a little bit worse, but I’m talking minor details. I’m pretty happy and was just shooting for consistency from (Saturday) to (Sunday).”
Flying start: The sprint format uses the “flying start” approach, where racers begin at their normal height on the track. They pull from the handles, but the timing doesn’t commence for approximately 100 meters, hence, the flying start. The International Luge Federation (FIL) has proposed this event to the IOC for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Britcher was timed in 29.925 seconds, just 0.002 ahead of Russian Victoria Demchenko. Double Olympic medalist Natalie Geisenberger, of Germany, picked up the bronze in 29.948 after placing second Saturday behind Britcher. Geisenberger accumulated enough points to secure the World Cup crystal for the sixth consecutive year, although two events remain next weekend in Latvia.
Surging up the standings: The American now has a chance to finish as high as second in the standings, something that only happened in 1991-1992 when four-time Olympian and 1994 U.S. flagbearer Cameron Myler took the World Cup runner-up spot.
“I did have a chance to look over the points,” Britcher said. “Up until very recently, it wasn’t something that was really on my radar after I didn’t qualify for the first race of the season and got that big ‘ol zero. I wasn’t expecting to have a shot at the overall, so this is something new on my radar. But I think not focusing on that, not focusing on the World Cup circuit as a whole, and just focusing on individual races has really been helping me. I want to get that third or possibly second spot overall, but I’m just going to focus on Sigulda as an individual race, and a final opportunity to fine tune my mental approach going into the Olympics.”
On to Latvia: The World Cup tour now moves to the Baltic region for next weekend’s action-packed finals in Sigulda, Latvia. That will be followed by the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Britcher competed in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, finishing 15th. She has already qualified for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
The 2018 Winter Olympics women's luge is set for Monday, Feb. 12, and Tuesday, Feb. 13.
Information for this story was provided by USA Luge.