Natalie Geisenberger extends undefeated start to luge season
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman were 11th in the World Cup doubles luge race Friday, a nondescript result nearly a full second away from the winning time.
They won the race that mattered most, though.
Niccum and Terdiman prevailed in a raceoff over fellow Americans Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk, capturing the second and final doubles spot allocated to USA Luge for the Sochi Olympics.
And that was just one development on a day where the U.S. luge roster for Sochi took serious shape.
Only two spots were formally clinched before Friday. Barring any appeals or protests, only two spots on the 10-person team were left unclaimed by the end of the day, with Kate Hansen and Summer Britcher locking up women's berths to join Erin Hamlin on that squad, and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall also punching their ticket, USA Luge said.
The full roster will be unveiled at the conclusion of the racing in Park City. Chris Mazdzer has a men's berth locked up; the two other spots on that team are all left undecided entering Saturday's World Cup men's race.
"Obviously, it's an amazing feeling," Griffall said. "When Matt and I decided to slide together seven years ago, almost eight years ago now, this is what our goal in mind was, to make it to the Olympics."
In the women's race, Germany's Natalie Geisenberger continued her undefeated World Cup season, improving to 5-for-5 with an easy win. Geisenberger finished two runs at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic track in 1 minute, 27.628 seconds.
Anke Wischnewski of Germany was second, 0.193 seconds back. Alex Gough of Canada took third, 0.261 seconds behind Geisenberger.
All four U.S. women placed in the top nine, led by Hansen, fourth in 1:27.929. Julia Clukey was sixth, Hamlin finished eighth and Britcher placed ninth.
And in a sport decided by the thousandth of a second, it was a slim margin that proved the difference in deciding which U.S. woman would be Sochi-bound. Hamlin already had her spot and Hansen was a virtual lock entering Friday, so it came down to Clukey and Britcher.
If Clukey finished fifth, she would have been Sochi-bound. She missed it by the arduously close margin of 0.013 seconds.
If Britcher finished 10th, there would have almost certainly been a race-off for the final women's spot. She avoided finishing in that position by 0.112 seconds.
So by almost an imperceptible difference, Britcher got the third women's Olympic nod.
In the doubles World Cup race, the German team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt prevailed for their fourth win of the season.
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