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Glen Rock's Summer Britcher faces sanctions after blasting International Luge Federation

STEVE HEISER
717-505-5446/@ydsports
  • Summer Britcher sat out this weekend's World Cup luge action in Germany.
  • The Susquehannock High graduate was unhappy about the track conditions.
  • Britcher said she has "disdain" for the International Luge Federation.
  • The federation said Britcher will face undetermined sanctions for her comments.
Summer Britcher of United States finishes her team relay race at the World Luge Championships in Krasnaya Polyana, near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Artur Lebedev)

Glen Rock's Summer Britcher is not very happy with International Luge Federation.

She made her displeasure publicly known over the weekend and now faces an undetermined sanction from the organization.

The Susquehannock High School graduate was upset about the track conditions for the World Cup luge race in Winterberg, Germany.

Those conditions led several of the top racers to sit out the event in a protest, citing safety and other concerns.

Six of the top nine men in the world rankings entering Saturday — including World Cup leader and reigning world champion Roman Repilov of Russia — refused to compete.

USA Luge members, including Britcher, also did not compete over the weekend, nor did the Austrian team that includes reigning Olympic men’s champion David Gleirscher, nor did two-time Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany — who missed a World Cup event for the first time in three years. 

Athletes had been saying throughout the week that the track surface was not suitable for racing, noting a high number of crashes on training days, and felt the International Luge Federation had not taken their concerns seriously.

The federation changed race distances, making them shorter with hopes of safer racing. But some athletes clearly felt that wasn’t enough.

Britcher's comments: That included Britcher, a two-time Olympian who entered the weekend in sixth place in the overall World Cup women’s standings.

“I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” Britcher wrote as part of a long post on her Instagram page.

Britcher said the luge organization has a disregard for “1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport.”

Later in her post, Britcher wrote:

“I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences. But I have that privilege, I have the support of my organization when I say that I will NOT race in this farce of a World Cup. But many athletes do not, and the people who are supposed to be looking out for the safety of the athletes, and the integrity of the sport are turning a blind eye. I hope that the International Luge Federation will do better in the future, and I hope that the responsible parties will be held accountable.”

Sanctions looming: The luge federation saw the post and later announced that Britcher would face a still-undetermined sanction for what it called her “unsporting behavior.”

“The safety of our athletes is our No. 1 priority,” FIL Technical Director Christian Eigentler said.

Britcher, however, was not alone in issuing sharp criticism of the federation. Fellow U.S. sliders, as well as ones from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and more also spoke out about the issue.

“THIS IS FIASCO,” Repilov, in English, posted on his Instagram, adding that the track was not ready for racing.

USA Luge, meanwhile, issued a statement on the matter:

“We respect our team’s opinions that conditions are not safe. The entire Austrian team has walked away, as well as some Germans and Russians, including Olympic medalists and World Cup leaders, who are also not racing. Jim Leahy, USA Luge CEO, sent a note to the FIL this morning expressing our concern for the safety of our athletes and all athletes.”

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com. The Associated Press contribued to this report.