Bill and Carrie Britcher talk about their daughter's return to the Olympic luge competition. The York Dispatch
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Summer Britcher didn't win a medal in the Olympic women's luge competition Tuesday, Feb. 13.
The Glen Rock woman, however, will still have have an opportunity to win a medal during the Winter Games in South Korea.
Britcher ended up in 19th place overall in the women's luge competition after a difficult fourth and final run Tuesday on the 3,943-foot course at the Alpensia Sliding Center. That was a disappointing finish for Britcher, who was third in the overall standings during the recently-completed World Cup luge season.
The 23-year-old Susquehannock High School graduate, however, will still get another chance to earn a medal. She's been selected to represent the United States in the team relay event, which starts at 7:30 a.m. (Eastern time) Thursday, Feb. 15.
In that event, each team will include a singles female luger, a singles male luger and a doubles male luge duo.
Britcher was likely selected as the U.S. female representative for that team because she posted the fastest singles luge run of any U.S. woman during the Olympics. That came during Monday's second run, when she broke the track record with a run of 46.132 seconds. That moved her up from 15th place to ninth in the standings at the time.
Britcher was chosen over teammate Erin Hamlin, a four-time Olympian who finished sixth overall in this year's event.
That was fine with Hamlin, whose Olympic career is now over. Hamlin won a bronze medal in the 2014 Winter Games in Russia. Britcher was 15th in those same Winter Games.
"Summer's fast here," Hamlin said. "I think we have a really good shot. It's going to be exciting. I can't wait to see how things go down."
Britcher's teammate in the relay will be Christopher Mazdzer, who took the silver medal in the men's luge. The Americans finished sixth in the relay event in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Tuesday's action: Britcher was eighth in the third run in 46.603 seconds. She then struggled to a 19th-place finish in the fourth run, which included a bump into the wall at the very start. She finished in 48.770 seconds, which was nearly 1.5 seconds behind the 18th-place finisher in that run and more than three seconds behind the top time during the fourth run.
That dropped Britcher to 19th overall with a cumulative, four-run time of 3:08.334.
Germany's Natalie Geisenberger repeated as the Olympic women's luge champion with a total time of 3:05.232, more than three seconds better than Britcher. Geisenberger was followed by another German, Dajana Eitberger (3:05.599) and Canadian Alex Gough (3:05.644). Gough gave Canada its first-ever Olympic luge medal, while Geisenberger now owns three Olympic gold medals, including a team relay gold from 2014.
Hamlin had a total time of 3:05.912 en route to her sixth-place finish.
"I pretty much had the same plan of attack," Britcher told USA Luge about her outlook going into Tuesday's action. "I still got a lot to learn in this sport, and mistakes happen. Yesterday, going into the second run, I still really believed that I had a shot at getting onto the podium … but the further behind that you get, it’s harder to hold that belief as a reality."
Scary crash may have had impact on Britcher: Britcher's performance may have been impacted by watching her American teammate and friend, Emily Sweeney, suffer a horrifying crash just before her own final run.
"I wanted to get two more good runs and hopefully get on the podium," Britcher said. "I was pretty devastated myself already (after the third run) and I feel like I had just put myself back together and I was ready for my run, and then when Emily crashed, that was really hard, and I’ve never been so relieved as when I saw her getting up and walking. I did my best to put it out of my head and really, really wanted to get a start record and just give it everything I had and, you know, slipped a little bit. Mistakes happen."
Sweeney was down for several minutes, but avoided serious injury.
"I'm OK," she told The Associated Press as she left the finish area.
"We’re all a family," Britcher said when asked about Sweeney's injury. "We go through success together, we cry together, the ups and downs of life, and we’re going to collectively be a little bit upset after today. But we still have Chris’ Olympic silver medal to cheer us up, and we still have a team relay competition, where I think we have a really strong team, and we’re going to come back strong."
Hamlin all smiles: Hamlin, meanwhile, was all smiles as she left, completely at ease at the end of a career that saw her win 23 World Cup medals on 12 different tracks, two world championships and the 2014 Olympic bronze. She was fifth going into the final run and held nothing back, but the storybook finish wasn't in the cards.
"I was really hoping to end on a more positive note," Hamlin said afterward, smiling broadly. "But unfortunately, that did not happen. And that's all right."
So now, retirement starts.
"I've kind of experienced all bits of the spectrum," Hamlin said. "I have been completely devastated by an Olympics, just kind of cruised through one and had fun, was super-elated at one. The years of experience play into it for sure, and keeping everything in perspective I think is big."
Britcher, meanwhile, expressed high regard for Hamlin.
"She’s been a game-changer for USA Luge," Britcher said. "To me, personally, she’s been a huge inspiration. Being there in Sochi when she won that bronze medal was sort of a deciding factor in my career. I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep sliding. It seemed kind of hopeless. And that was a moment of 'hey this is possible, we can do this, we can compete with the best, and that sort of gave me the drive to succeed over the past four years. I really just hope we can continue the legacy that she’s left into the next four and keep getting on that podium."
— The Associated Press and USA Luge contributed to this report.