A wary Geisenberger leads at midpoint of women’s luge
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Ordinarily at an Olympics, the leader at the midway point of a luge competition is virtually guaranteed to emerge with a gold medal.
Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger knows these are not ordinary times.
Geisenberger had the lead after Monday night’s first two runs of the women’s luge event at the Pyeongchang Games, putting her 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 finished two runs in 1 minute, 32.454 seconds. She’ll take a lead of 0.12 seconds over Germany’s Dajana Eitberger into the Tuesday night’s final two runs, while Canada’s Alex Gough, Germany’s Tatjana Huefner and Erin Hamlin of the U.S. are also within a quarter-second of Geisenberger.
“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.”
Curve 9 was Loch’s undoing on Sunday night, and it snagged a few of the women’s contenders as well — perhaps most notably Americans Emily Sweeney and Summer Britcher.
Sweeney had a bad wreck in training on Sunday and was still mindful of it Monday, finishing the first two runs in 15th place. Britcher hit the wall hard in her first run, then rebounded to set a track record in the second — and showed a ton of emotion afterward.
“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.”
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.”
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