ALTENBERG, Germany – The FIL World Luge Championships kicked off a three-day race weekend Friday with sprint events. The United States had two close encounters with the podium, placing Ashley Farquharson and the duo of Maya Chan/Reannyn Weiler in fourth place in the women's singles and doubles competitions.
The World Sprint Championships race includes the top 15 athletes in each event based on their placing in the preliminary qualifying races held earlier. The sprint includes men's and women's singles, plus men's and women's doubles. The clock starts at a lower point on the course than traditional races, emphasizing skill over speed at the start of this single-heat race.
It was a surprising day of racing as four different countries placed on the podium in all events, with athletes from Latvia, Austria, Germany and Italy winning gold medals.
In the women's doubles, Chan/Weiler were in third place until the final sled in the heat knocked them down to fourth place. It was their best result at the World Sprint Championships, finishing an agonizing 0.015 off the bronze medal with a time of 28.482.
“It's a really good finish for us and I feel like we've had good stretches on the tracks, but this is the first time we've been able to put it together and have one good run, so I'm very happy.” “ Chan said.
“This is our highest finish in the sprint and this is our highest finish all season,” Weiler said. “If you were watching [the races this season]we were sixth in every race, in every sprint, so today we are fourth.”
Chevonne Forgan/Sophie Kirkby finished sixth with a time of 28.595.
The Italian team Andrea Voetter/Marion Oberhofer won gold with a time of 28.234. Latvia won silver and bronze with Anda Upite/Zane Kaluma in 28.438. Their teammates Marta Robezniece/Kitija Bogdanova were third in 28.467. Robezniece/Bogdanova secured the course record during the qualifying race with a time of 28.234.
Jessica Degenhardt/Cheyenne Rosenthal hit the wall four times in the chrisel and finished 14th with a time of 32.532.
In the women's singles, Farquharson continued her strong season, missing out on the podium by just 0.02 seconds and missing out on a bronze medal. Farquharson placed fourth with a 37.833. Her teammate Summer Britcher rounded out the top 10, finishing eighth with a 37.934.
“It was a really crazy day for the World Sprint Championships with a bit of a rough start in the morning with a crazy qualifying run, but I'm happy to get there.” said Farquharson, who finished fourth for the fourth time this season. “Obviously I like getting fourth, but I want to break that streak on Sunday.”
Emily Sweeney did not qualify. The coaching team accidentally overturned Sweeney's sled and Farquharson's sled and they got under control. Once a sled is controlled for a race, it cannot be changed. In this case, Sweeney's sleigh was entered for Farquharson's and vice versa. Sweeney finished 17th out of the top 15 in qualifying, while Farquharson managed to qualify for the race in 15th position.
German Julia Taubitzová won the gold with a time of 37.702. The surprise of the day was the Swiss Natalie Maagová, who took the silver with 37.774 and the third Latvian Elina Vitolaová with 37.813. The track record was set by the Austrian Lisa Schulte with 37.502 in the qualifying race. Schulte finished the sprint in tenth place with a time of 37.946.
The men's doubles race proved thrilling until the final seconds as Latvia's Martins Bots/Roberts Plume took the gold medal, just 0.032 separating them from Austria's Thomas Steu/Wolfgang Kindl of Austria who took silver. Bots/Plume, who were 12th in the preliminary heat, changed gear for the race as the track conditions worsened over time. They crossed the finish line in 27.863. Steu/Kindl took second with a time of 27.895 and their teammates Thomas Gatt/Martin Schoepf were third with a time of 27.973.
The favorites for today's race were the Germans Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt, who have nine medals in the sprint at the World Championships, which is the most in the history of the discipline. The three-time Olympic champions finished in a surprising seventh place after making mistakes throughout the run.
Both teams representing the United States had problems in the race. Zack DiGregorio/Sean Hollander had a rough start and hit the wall in the first corner. The duo placed 13th with a time of 28.295. Teammates Dana Kellogg/Frank Ike showed a lot of promise for a strong run based on their performance in the qualifying race, but crashed out of turn nine. Kellogg/Ike were 14th with a time of 28.568.
In men's singles, Austria's David Gleirscher won the men's singles gold medal in 33.001, defeating Germany's Max Langenhan, who won silver in 33.071. Latvia's Kristers Aparjods was third in 33.124, edging medal favorite Felix Loch of Germany into fourth in 33.164.
Tucker West placed ninth with a time of 33.397. Teammate and 2022 Olympian Jonathan Gustafson finished 11th with a time of 33.452. Gustafson had a problem securing the neck strap, but still finished the race.
For more results from the 2023-2024 World Cup season, visit fil-luge.org/en/multimedia/fil-world-championships-10.
The FIL World Championship continues this weekend in Altenberg, Germany. Women's doubles, men's doubles and men's doubles will compete today, followed by women's singles and the team relay on Sunday.
To watch the race live, visit the FIL YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@FILLuge_Channel. The entire World Cup season is accessible from this portal.
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