Clukey claims silver in luge World Cup

LAKE PLACID – The Germans took the top spots, but the American women had a strong overall showing Friday in the FIL Viessmann Luge World Cup races at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

Natalie Geisenberger of Germany edged out American Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine, by less than three-tenths of a second to win the women’s race and secure the overall World Cup title. She finished her two runs in a combined time of 1:28.44.

In the men’s doubles race, Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt took first with a combined time of 1:28.256.

Geisenberger, who won her first women’s world championship Saturday at Whistler, British Columbia, celebrated her 25th birthday Wednesday.

“I had some big problems in training runs,” Geisenberger said. “My only hope was to get down two times without hitting a wall, and it was really two perfect runs, and now I’m happy about the win and the overall world cup win today.”

Geisenberger now has 770 World Cup points, clinching that title for the season. She is ahead of teammate Anke Wischnewski’s 585 points. Another German, Tatjana Hufner, is third with 461 points.

Clukey is sixth in the World Cup standings and had the best finish by an American in World Cup luge since Erin Hamlin of Remsen won the world championship in Lake Placid in 2009.

“That’s a huge honor,” Clukey said. “Not many people get on the podium in the women’s field. The Germans have a very strong program, and they’ve certainly dominated this year, so it’s a pretty special place for me.”

Canadian Alex Gough took third place in 1:28.748.

Overall, the American women had a strong day, placing four sliders in the top 10. Hamlin took fifth, Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., finished sixth, and Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn., came in ninth. Sweeney, who has family in Saranac Lake, is coming off a recent junior World Championships win.

“It was so awesome, having a home-field advantage, especially ‘Sween Team’ and the Hamlins,” Sweeney said. “It’s been an awesome experience, and it’s just cool to come up the out-run and know people just love you, because in Germany there’s no love ever. So it’s just nice to see the flag waving and to hear your name being chanted. Actually, it’s a pretty unreal feeling. It was awesome.”

Hansen also seemed to enjoy the loud fans, who were ringing cowbells and waving American flags at the finish line. She even took the time to bump fists with a fan.

“Our support system was amazing, between Erin and I, our families here,” she said. “Everyone was insane, and coming up the out-run was cool to see everyone there.”

Despite enjoying the support of a large contingent of family members, Hamlin appeared disappointed by her fifth-place finish. She said the race didn’t go as well as she hoped, and that she had trouble in training as well as the races.

“For how my runs were, I have to be happy with my place because I had some big problems, especially my second run,” she said. “I just clipped a wall in the Chicane, not ideal. Usually, I’m pretty dialed through there, so hopefully next time’s better.”

In the men’s doubles race, which took place in the morning, Wendl and Arlt not only took first place but also secured the overall World Cup title.

“It’s a very good feeling to win because it’s very difficult track and very hard to slide for doubles here,” Arlt said. “It’s the win for us for the overall World Cup, so we’re so happy.”

The pair have won six of eight World Cup races this season and now have 727 points. Fellow Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken are second in points with 598 while Austrian’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler are third with 525.

In Friday’s race, Arlt and Wendl edged Penz and Fischler, and Italy’s Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber were third.

Matthew Mortensen of Huntington Station and Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City, Utah, were the top American finishers, coming in sixth place. Teammates Jake Hyrns Muskegon, Mich and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa., finished eighth.

“Any time you can be in the hunt for a medal, I think you have to be somewhat satisfied, especially (since) this is our best result so far this year,” Griffall said. “It’s good leading into our next World Cup in Sochi, where the Olympics are going to be next year, so it’s good to carry some momentum into that.”

World Cup action wraps up today with Men’s singles and the team relay.