Huefner’s singles title must wait until finals
SIGULDA, Latvia - Erin Hamlin is back on the singles podium.
The 2009 World Champion collected her sixth career World Cup luge women’s singles medal Sunday - all bronze - on this technically demanding track in the Baltic state of Latvia. A two-time Olympian from Remsen, N.Y., Hamlin placed behind Germans Natalie Geisenberger and Anke Wischnewski.
"Training went well here. I’ve never had a good history with Sigulda. Entering the week, I was just hoping for the best and making it down. It was a short week and it was nice not hating life," joked Hamlin.
"I went into the race to make it down with two good runs. That’s what I always shoot for here."
It marked Hamlin’s first individual medal since the fall of 2010 when she appeared on the podium in Igls, Austria and Calgary, Alberta. She was part of a silver medal for the United States in the team relay last month in Winterberg, Germany.
The winner’s effort, coupled with an uncharacteristically lackluster performance from 2010 Olympic champion and 2012 World Champion Tatjana Huefner, also of Germany, delayed Huefner’s possible crowning as World Cup overall champion until the tour finals next week in Paramonovo, Russia.
Huefner got off to very fast starts in each heat, including a start record in the opening leg of the competition. Despite her speed at the top of the hill, Huefner encountered problems on each run of the 988 meter long, 13-turn women’s course and placed 10th.
Geisenberger’s efforts resulted in the two fastest runs of the morning. Her times of 42.790 and 43.094 seconds totaled one minute, 25.884 seconds. It was good enough for her 10th career win and third this year. Geisenberger, with 650 overall World Cup points, is second to Huefner’s 676. Wischnewski is third with 535.
Hamlin remains in sixth place with 371 points. Huefner seeks a tour-record fifth straight overall championship.
Wischnewski’s runner-up time was 1:26.027, while Hamlin secured the bronze medal in 1:26.167 despite some bad luck to start the race.
"It was windy. There was a big gust as I pulled off the handles in the first run," continued Hamlin, who was unfazed. "My (curves) four-five combination wasn’t ideal but for me it was pretty good compared to the past. I definitely had some skidding in the upper part of the track but nothing terrible.
"I’ve had OK races this season but it’s nice to get up there (the podium). I’m happy with two consistent runs on a track like this. It takes a lot of frustration off because I have at least one medal for the season and can walk away thinking it (the season) wasn’t a total loss."
Kate Hansen, of La Canada, Calif., is 22nd with 110 points, while Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., is 26th with 96 points. Both have split their time between the World Cup and Junior World Cup tours.
Hamlin came back later in the day and led her team to fourth place in the final team relay of the World Cup campaign. Hamlin got her teammates off to a fast start with the third best women’s run of the competition. She was joined by Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., in men’s singles, along with the doubles team of Christian Niccum, of Woodinville, Wash. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa.
Mazdzer, unfamiliar with the tricky women’s start curve, skidded at the top of the course, resulting in a seventh ranked run time. Niccum and Terdiman were able to bounce back with the third fastest time of the heat.
The overall team relay winners ended the year with 540 points on the strength of three victories. Canada was second with 392, followed closely by Russia at 385. The U.S. concluded in fifth place with 355 points.
Despite their two triumphs, Italy took sixth place as they did not score points in two of the six competitions.
The World Cup tour concludes its season Feb. 25-26 on the circuit’s newest course in Paramonovo, Russia.
Get the complete interviewwith Erin here. Women’s results can be found here and relay results here.