Geisenberger clinches World Cup luge season title
ALTENBERG, Germany (AP) — Natalie Geisenberger captured the World Cup women’s luge championship for the second straight year Sunday, after the German and strong Sochi Olympics favorite clinched the season-long title with a victory in the circuit’s next-to-last race.
Geisenberger set start and track records in her first run at Altenberg on Sunday, finishing the two-heat race in 1 minute, 46.332 seconds. Canadian sliders took silver and bronze, with Alex Gough 0.674 seconds behind Geisenberger and Kimberley McRae another 0.024 seconds back.
It was Geisenberger’s seventh win in eight races on the circuit this season.
German teammates Tatjana Huefner and Dajana Eitberger were fourth and fifth. Erin Hamlin was a strong sixth for the U.S., her medal hopes ruined by posting only the 18th-fastest time in the first heat — one that was slowed by deteriorating ice on an unseasonably warm day with the temperature in the mid-40s.
The 2009 world champion roared back in the second heat with the second-best time, even bettering what was posted by Geisenberger in that run. But on her first run, the later starters had to endure rough ice.
“I would say bad luck of the draw,” Hamlin said. “My first run was actually better than my second. I don’t know how I could have gone any faster unless I had some magic wax or something.”
The colder the air, the harder the ice, and the faster the race. And the temperature can fluctuate wildly around Sochi, so Hamlin is among those hoping for a bit of a cold snap in a couple of weeks.
“I’m going to cross my fingers for winter at the Winter Olympics,” Hamlin said.
Also for the U.S., Summer Britcher was 14th and Kate Hansen was 21st.
This is the seventh consecutive year that Geisenberger finished ranked in the top three on tour and the 16th straight year in which a German woman won the season-long title. Geisenberger is also the sixth woman to win back-to-back World Cup titles and the ninth woman with multiple championships overall.
“They all tell me that I’m the top favorite to win the gold medal at the games,” Geisenberger said. “However, my aim is to claim a medal. The pressure is high enough and I don’t need to put myself under even more pressure.”
In the team relay, Russia finished first, followed by Canada in second — with Gough getting her second silver of the day by being part of the effort there — and Germany took third.
The U.S. team of Hamlin, Chris Mazdzer and the doubles squad of Matthew Mortensen and Preston Griffall placed sixth in the team relay, which is part of the Olympic program for the first time this year.
Germans swept all three disciplines in the World Cup this season, with Felix Loch taking the men’s crown and the team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt winning the doubles points championship. Germany also finished with the most ranking points in team relays.
Germany’s Olympic luge qualifiers are planning to skip the World Cup season-ending race at Sigulda, Latvia, next weekend.