November 29, 2014

IGLS, Austria (AP) New year, same story. Natalie Geisenberger still rules women's luge.

The Olympic champion started her season where she left off last winter, leading a 1-2-3-4 German finish in the first race of the women's World Cup luge season on Saturday.

Geisenberger's win marked the 20th consecutive first- or second-place finish for her against international fields, a streak that includes the gold medal at the Sochi Games. The Olympic and two-time World Cup champion posted the fastest time in both runs and clocked an aggregate 1 minute, 19.822 seconds to beat former junior world champion Dajana Eitberger by 0.209 seconds.

Tatjana Huefner was 0.218 second behind in third, and Anke Wischnewski trailed Geisenberger by 0.268 seconds in fourth.

Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin of Remsen, New York was 11th after the opening run but rallied to wind up fifth, albeit more than a half-second off Geisenberger's pace.

''Literally, we were hot,'' Hamlin said after finishing up on the unseasonable 59-degree day. ''It was the best feeling to take everything off at the finish. Not necessarily what we're used to but we've had a lot of warm races over the past couple seasons. It might be something we have to start dealing with.''

It doesn't seem as if that will be an issue next weekend when the series resumes in Lake Placid, New York. Forecasters say temperatures won't get much above freezing, if at all.

Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Connecticut, established a World Cup career-best with a seventh-place finish.

''I hadn't raced in a World Cup in over a year,'' Sweeney said. ''It's good to feel like I belong again.''

Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine, was 13th, one spot ahead of fellow American Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania.

Germany's Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the doubles season-opener, finishing in 1:19:330 for their fifth World Cup win on a day where the warm air at the 1976 Olympic track made ice soft and less than ideal for racing.

Vladislav Yuzhakov and Vladimir Prokhorov of Russia were 0.505 seconds behind in second, and Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler were another 0.02 seconds back in third. Double Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany missed out on the podium in fourth, 0.53 seconds behind the winners.

Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger, who won Olympic gold in 2006 and 2010 and retired this past offseason, made the final run of their careers as forerunners to say goodbye to their home crowd.

Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, New York, teamed with Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pennsylvania, to finish seventh.

''With Lake Placid next week, it's a big confidence boost,'' Mortensen said.

The men's singles and a new sprint event are scheduled for Sunday.

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