Bill and Carrie Britcher talk about their daughter's return to the Olympic luge competition. The York Dispatch
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea —After a disappointing first run and a record-breaking second run, Glen Rock's Summer Britcher sits in ninth place after the first day of women's luge competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
After the first two runs on Monday, Feb. 12,, Britcher has a total time of 1 minute, 32.961 seconds, which is .507 of a second behind the leader, Germany's Natalie Geisenberger, who sits at 1:32.454.
Britcher hit the wall hard in her first run on the treacherous ninth curve of the 3,943-foot course and finished in :46.829. That left her in 15th place.
She then rebounded strongly to set the track record in the second run in :46.132 — cutting nearly seven-tenths of a second off her time, which is a huge reduction in luge. That moved her up six places in the overall standings.
She showed a ton of emotion after the second run.
"That was pretty satisfying," Britcher said. "I don't think I would have been so happy if I'd had a good first run. But it is hard to come back from a bad run, especially at an Olympics."
That improvement produced a much more positive frame of mind for the Susquehannock High School graduate heading into the third and fourth runs on the final day of women's singles luge competition on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
“I really wanted to come back from that first run,” said the five-time World Cup winner and two-time Olympian. “I’m a little disappointed I messed up the first run, but I knew there was nothing I would have done differently so I just made a different plan for driving. But I went at it with the same mental approach, the same confidence, and I’m really happy with where it ended up.”
If 23-year-old Britcher is to earn a medal in South Korea, she will likely need to repeat her second-run performance from Monday during both of her runs on Tuesday.
Britcher, who finished third in the overall World Cup standings this season, finished 15th in her previous Olympic appearance in 2014 in Russia.
Geisenberger takes nothing for granted: Ordinarily at an Olympics, the leader at the midway point of a luge competition is virtually guaranteed to emerge with a gold medal.
Geisenberger knows these are not ordinary times.
Geisenberger is in prime position to win a second straight Olympic title. But after seeing fellow German star Felix Loch skid midway through the final run of the men's race and lose his shot at a third consecutive gold medal, she's fully aware nothing is assured.
"We saw what could happen if you make a little mistake," Geisenberger said. "You lose big, big, big time."
Geisenberger will take a lead of 0.12 seconds over Germany's Dajana Eitberger (1:32.574) into the Tuesday night's final two runs, while Canada's Alex Gough (1:32.645), Germany's Tatjana Huefner (1:32.661) and American Erin Hamlin (1:32.690) are also within a quarter-second of Geisenberger. Hamlin is the top American in fifth.
"It's a great race," said Hamlin, the bronze medalist at the Sochi Olympics four years ago who is retiring after these games. "Anything can happen."
The other American in the field is Emily Sweeney in 15th at (1:33.555).
Curve 9 was Loch's undoing on Sunday night, and it snagged a few of the women's contenders as well — perhaps most notably Sweeney and Britcher.
Sweeney had a bad wreck in training on Sunday and was still mindful of it Monday.
It's the sixth consecutive Olympic women's race where a German has held the lead at the midway point. Geisenberger is bidding to be the third woman to win consecutive Olympic golds, joining Steffi Martin Walter (1984, 1988) and Sylke Otto (2002, 2006).
She was in this spot four years ago, trying to sleep with the Olympic lead. It wasn't easy that night in Sochi. This time, now with that women's gold and a relay gold secured from 2014, she's thinking she could be more relaxed.
"In Sochi, my dream was to win an Olympic gold medal," Geisenberger said. "That was my dream since I was a little child. Now I have the gold medal. I have two of them. If there will be another medal, good. If not, it's not the worst case. It's just sport."
The women's luge action starts again at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.
The Associated Press and USA Luge contributed to this story.