Natalie Geisenberger gets overall title
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Germany's powerhouse luge team rolled on Friday with a pair of victories at snowy Mount Van Hoevenberg to clinch World Cup overall season titles.
Natalie Geisenberger completed a personably memorable seven days by taking the women's competition and the team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt started the day with a win in the men's doubles event.
Julia Clukey posted a career-best second-place finish .295 seconds behind Geisenberger's winning combined time of 1 minute, 28.440 seconds. Clukey's three U.S. teammates finished in the top 10. Alex Gough of Canada was third.
After four years as the runner-up, Geisenberger won her first women's world championship Saturday at Whistler, British Columbia. She celebrated her 25th birthday Wednesday and won the first World Cup in Lake Placid in six years.
"I had some big problems in training runs and my only hope was to get down two times without hitting a wall," Geisenberger said. "It was two perfect runs. I'm happy about the win and the overall World Cup win today."
Geisenberger had the two fastest times of the day, 44.295 seconds and 44.145, to win her fourth consecutive World Cup event and sixth of eight races this season. She was second in the other two events.
The 27-year-old Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, earned her first finish on the podium of a World Cup with a two-run time of 1:28.735. The performance continued what has been the best season of a career interrupted by a struggle with Arnold-Chiari Syndrome, which produces chronic headaches, fatigue and nausea. She underwent surgery in 2011 to have eight millimeters of bone shaved from her skull to relieve pressure.
With a large group of family and friends cheering her on, Clukey followed the third-fastest time of the first heat with the third-best time of the second run.
"It's an amazing feeling," Clukey said. "I really wanted to attack on the start. I know this track in and out so I really was just focused on my position on the sled. I knew regardless if I was a little bit too far to the left or too far to the right I knew how to correct my lines in the curves. I just wanted to capitalize on my home track advantage and I'm super excited that I was able to do that today."
Clukey's silver medal was the best finish by an American since teammate Erin Hamlin won the 2009 world championship at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., ended up fifth; Kate Hansen, of La Canada, Calif., was sixth and Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., was 10th.
Hamlin said she didn't do as well as she had hoped in the first international luge event held in the track since she won the world title four years ago.
"I was fast in training, although I kind of had some of the same problems today as I did in training," she said. "For how my runs were, I have to be happy with my fifth place. I had some big problems, especially in my second run. I clipped the wall in the chicane, which is not ideal. Usually, I'm pretty dialed through there. Hopefully, the next time is better.
"But it is nice racing at home and I'm starting to feel a little bit more comfortable on the sled. Hopefully, I can build on that going into Sochi." Hamlin said she enjoyed the rare opportunity to compete in front of her flag-waving family and friends.
Her brother, Sean, was one of four shirtless relatives with the letters of her name painted on their torsos.
"It's definitely not a burden at all," she said. "I love having so many people into the sport. As most people know, it's not exactly the most popular thing in the world. They have a blast and it's an exciting thing. Sometimes I have this feeling of, `Man, I wish I was over with them. They're having a really good time.'
"It brings everyone together and I get to see pretty much all of my relatives, which doesn't happen very often, since I'm gone so much. It's really nice to see everybody. They have a good time. It's a good party."
World champions Wendl and Arlt wrapped up the luge World Cup doubles title with their sixth victory in eight races this season. Wendl and Arlt completed the two runs in combined time of 1 minute, 28.256 seconds to finish 0.131 seconds ahead of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria.
The Italian team of Christain Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber was third. Wendl and Arlt captured the world championship title last weekend at Whistler, British Columbia, and were the World Cup winners in 2010-11.
They were able to lock up their second championship when their German teammates, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, finished seventh. Eggert and Benecken needed to finish third or better to stay in contention for the title at the final event at Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 23-24.
The U.S. was led by Matthew Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City, Utah, who were sixth, .657 seconds behind the winners with their top finish of the season.
"Those runs were the definitely the best runs we've had in all of training," Mortensen said. "We had two nice, clean exits out the key corner, curve 12. The first run was real sweet. The second run we worked for a lot more. We definitely had to make it work. It wasn't as free-flowing as the first one. From the start to the finish we really, really worked hard for that second run."
Mortensen and Griffall are 11th in the overall World Cup standings entering the season finale on the 2014 Winter Olympics track at Sochi.
The second U.S. team of Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., in its first full season on the World Cup tour, finished eighth.