US doubles place 12th, 16th as tour nears holiday recess
SIGULDA, Latvia - The women of the United States Luge Team continued trending in the right direction Saturday as Erin Hamlin lead another consistent group performance at a World Cup stop in windy Sigulda, Latvia.
Hamlin, the 2009 World Champion and two-time Olympian, finished sixth, 0.5 of a second from Russian winner Tatiana Ivanova, who ended a German win streak at three to begin the season and just 0.13 per run off the podium.
The American is working her way toward the World Cup podium after previous results of 11th, 11th and seventh.
"The runs were far from perfect," she said. "I could have made up lots of time. But to have mistakes and be sixth, I have to be happy with it. I’m slowly moving forward this season. It’s a step in the right direction."
The effort tied teammate Julia Clukey for the team’s best result on the season to date. Clukey, a 2010 Olympian, opened the campaign with a sixth place performance last month in Igls, Austria.
Both U.S. sliders have qualified for the 2013 World Championships at Whistler, B.C., Canada, in early February.
Clukey recorded a 10th place finish in Sigulda in 1:26.457, and found herself just 0.6 from the podium in 10th place.
Emily Sweeney has fought valiantly through a series of injuries (knee, ankle, calf) in the first half of the season and placed 17th Saturday on this difficult track.
Kate Hansen, of La Canada, Calif., the 2008 Junior World Champion, did not qualify in Friday’s Nations Cup.
U.S. doubles sleds placed 12th and 16th as Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, seemingly on a mission after failing to qualify for the 2010 Olympic team and then being denied the podium at the 2012 World Championships, completed a gold medal sweep of all four World Cup meets this season. Their dominance is thorough: Wendl and Arlt have won twice in their home country and twice off German ice. In Sigulda, the World Cup overall leaders captured both heats and won by nearly 0.5 of a second.
Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and 2006 Olympian Preston Griffall, of Salt Lake City, Utah settled for 12th. Previous results have also qualified Mortensen and Griffall for Whistler.
Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa. were 16th as the young sledders accumulate experience on tracks around the world.
Another U.S. doubles squad will join the action next month. Christian Niccum, of Woodinville, Wash. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. returned to on-ice training this week in Park City, Utah. The team’s top doubles sled the past two seasons has been on the shelf as Niccum recovers from back surgery last spring. He is now cleared for sliding.
Ivanova, the 2012 World Championship silver medalist who nearly won the world title in the Altenberg, Germany event, held off a cadre of four German women to collect her second tour victory. Ahead by 0.16 at the break, Ivanova’s final margin of victory was just 0.039. Her times of 42.818 and 42.786 seconds totaled one minute, 25.604 seconds.
Tour leader Natalie Geisenberger, now with two gold and two silver medals this season, was second in 1:25.643. Her World Cup point total increased to 370. Anke Wischnewski took bronze in 1:25.887 and is second overall at 315.
Conspicuous, once again, by her absence from the top three was defending Olympic and World Champion Tatyana Huefner. Germany’s lead racer entering the winter finished fourth. She has a World Cup silver medal in four attempts, and is third in the standings with 260 points.
Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., had two trips down the twisting, ever-turning Sigulda layout in 1:26.149, and stands sixth with 164 World Cup points.
"I’m starting to get more comfortable," she continued. "That’s been getting better the last couple of weeks. I wouldn’t say I’m back to my normal confident sliding yet, but I’m going in the right direction."
That direction would enable her to keep pace with the world’s elite.
"It shows a lot how the women’s field is getting better. It used to be two clean runs and you’d be right up there. But now we just had one of our closest races ever here. You just can’t make it down. You have to make it down really well."
Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, is tied for 11th with 125. Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn. was timed in 1:26.904 and is 15th with 106.
Wendl and Arlt posted times of 42.601 and 42.503 for a combined 1:25.104. They have a perfect 400 World Cup points and breathing room ahead of Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, who have 300. Penz and Fischer were second Saturday, in 1:25.556. Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber, of Italy, picked up the bronze medal in 1:25.668. It was their first visit to the podium in 2012-2013. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, also of Germany, are third on the season with 282. They fell to eighth place after being in third position at the intermission.
Double Olympic gold medalists and three-time World Champions Andreas and Wolfgang Linger, of Austria, needed a second leg rally to finish fifth. The brother tandem, also trying to defend their overall World Cup championship, is fourth in the standings. They have only raced onto the podium once this year.
Mortensen and Griffall put down a total time of 1:26.238, and are in a ninth place deadlock with 132 points. Hyrns and Sherk are 13th with 99 points. Their race time in the season’s fourth World Cup was 1:26.929.
The curtain closes on the 2012 portion of the World Cup season on Sunday with men’s singles, followed by the team relay. Action begins at 2:10 AM Eastern Time.
Catch the live timing and scoring on www.fil-luge.org.
Hear Erin Hamlin’s complete interview here.
Complete doubles results and women’s results.