KOENIGSSEE, Germany - Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, aided by a track record in the first run, made it two straight wins Saturday to begin the World Cup luge season as the German doubles unit slid away from the field on their home course.
It was their 12th career victory, coming on a snowy day along the border of Germany and Austria.
Another German on her home course, Natalie Geisenberger, lowered the track record in the opening leg as well en route to a women’s singles win. Germany’s domination of the first World Cups of the season continued as 2010 Olympic gold medalist Tatyana Huefner scored a silver medal with a second heat rally. Canadian Alex Gough, now coached by two former members of the German staff, was the bronze medalist ahead of two more German lugers.
Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, 2012 World Championship silver medal winners from Germany, were a distant 0.4 of a second behind their teammates, with Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger overtaking teammates Peter Penz and Georg Fischler in the final heat for the bronze medal. Penz and Fischler, winners of the 2012 World Championship bronze medal, settled for fourth place.
The top four nearly mimicked last Saturday’s result in the Igls, Austria season opener.
Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall in Koenigssee, Germany on Dec. 1. Photo: AP
The United States was led by Matt Mortensen and 2006 Olympian Preston Griffall in 11th place, while Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk took 17th. The latter sled qualified in Friday’s Nations Cup race, 11 months after a training crash on the same Bavarian track ended their 2011-2012 season.
The U.S. women’s singles showed depth in the opening heat, placing two in the top 10 and four in the first 15, led by 2010 Olympian Julia Clukey. But mistakes by all four in the finale finished any chance for a satisfying women’s team performance.
Wendl and Artl posted times of 50.480 and 50.497 seconds for a combined one minute, 40.977 seconds. Eggert and Benecken were the silver medalists in 1:41.392, followed by the two-time Olympic and three-time World Champion Linger brothers in 1:41.926.
The winners hail from these same Berchtesgaden Alps and have more runs on the classic Koenigssee layout than anyone else. All credit to them for taking advantage of the opportunity. It’s their fourth straight victory in the home they share with the International Luge Federation.
Given the fact that this event replaced Cesana, Italy after that venue withdrew due to financial constraints, Wendl and Arlt, seemingly on a mission after not qualifying for the 2010 Winter Olympics and finishing out of the medals at the 2012 World Championships, will receive yet another opportunity in Koenigssee next month when the regularly scheduled race is held.
Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Griffall, of Salt Lake City, Utah had nearly identical runs where they surrendered some time at the start, were gaining speed down the twisting course and headed inside the top 10, before the slower, re-designed lower section of the course gave them some issues.
They clocked two heats in 1:42.857.
Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., among the most inexperienced of World Cup doubles teams, crashed in a training run here last January. The former sustained a broken wrist, while the latter incurred a mild concussion.
After several days here last month and a full week of training, Hyrns and Sherk mustered a total time of 1:44.455.
Another United States doubles sled, with Christian Niccum, of Woodinville, Wash. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. are just a few weeks away from returning to the ice in Park City, Utah. The top U.S. duo, based on the World Cup rankings of the past two seasons, have been sidelined as Niccum, the 34 year old veteran of two Olympic Games, recovers from springtime back surgery.
Geisenberger’s 1:41.450 edged Huefner by a mere 0.03 of a second. The runner-up clocked 1:41.481, with Gough registering 1:41.601. Anke Wischnewski, last week’s gold medalist, was fourth, followed by 2012 World Junior Champion Aileen Frisch in fifth.
Above, Erin Hamlin races in Koenigssee, Germany on Dec. 1, 2012. Photo: AP
Two-time Olympian and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y. was the top U.S. performer, taking 11th place in 1:43.110. Hamlin was 1.66 seconds behind Geisenberger. Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. took 12th in 1:43.234, with 2008 World Junior Champion Kate Hansen, of La Canada, Calif., 20th in 1:44.847.
Julia Clukey in action during World Cup #2 in Koenigssee, Germany. Photo: AP
Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, was in the process of two strong runs and then encountered Koenigssee’s "new" lower section in each heat. She dropped from a team-leading ninth at the intermission to 21st place in 1:44.877.
The Koenigssee World Cup program concludes Sunday with a men’s singles race beginning at 7 AM Eastern. Live timing and scoring is available on the FIL website.