February 12, 2016

IGLS, Austria (AP) German bobsledder Anja Schneiderheinze and pushing partner Annika Drazek built a commanding lead in the first two heats of the women's competition at the world championships on Friday.

Schneiderheinze and Drazek timed 52.94 in the opening heat, 0.07 faster than the previous best mark set by Jamie Greubel Poser and Lauryn Williams of the United States two years ago.

The Germans also posted the fastest time in the second heat and finished in an aggregate time of 1 minute, 46.07 seconds to lead Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz of Canada by 0.31.

Defending champion Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs of the United States were another 0.02 behind in third.

The final two heats are on Saturday.

''It's tough ice and it's difficult to find the right line,'' said Schneiderheinze, who is aiming for her second world title but first as a pilot. She was pusher for Sandra Kiriasis when they took gold at the worlds in 2005 and also won the Olympic title the following year.

Schneiderheinze got her only podium finish of the current World Cup season last week.

''(That race in) St. Moritz was a huge relief. It characterizes an athlete that she never gives up,'' she said.

Home favorite Christina Hengster placed sixth, 0.90 off the lead, improving from ninth after a crash toward the end of her opening run.

The 2012 junior world champion and her pushing partner, Sanne Dekker, came too high in the 12th turn, causing their sled to tip over while going at 120 kph (74.5 mph). They finished upside down but avoided serious injuries.

''My neck hurts but the emotional pain is much bigger,'' said Hengster, who acknowledged the accident was her fault. ''We caught a bump. I wasn't prepared for that and I just reacted too late. It's a catastrophe.''

Enjoying her best career World Cup season with four podium finishes from seven races, the Austrian was regarded as a strong medal contender on her home track.

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