Americans Hamlin, Sweeney claim top two spots in Park City |

Americans Hamlin, Sweeney claim top two spots in Park City

U.S. earns five medals on final day of World Cup circuit stop

Team USA's Emily Sweeney 23 pumps her fist into the air as she slows her sled on the final straightaway of the Utah Olympic Park's sliding track during the women's singles heat of the FIL Viessmann Luge World Cup on Saturday. Sweeney placed second behind American teammate Erin Hamlin with an averaged time of 44.6 seconds.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

As U.S. luge athlete Erin Hamlin sat atop the Women’s start at Utah Olympic Park in Park City on Saturday, her mind was focused, but not too focused, on her next run, the final women’s run of the day.

Her teammate Emily Sweeney just produced one of the her best performances of the FIL Viessmann World Cup circuit with a 44.666 second run which, combined with her first run, was good enough to put her in the leader’s box with just Hamlin to go. This took the pressure off enough to allow Hamlin, who had the fastest first-heat run earlier, to do what she needed to do.

“You can never feel too comfortable after a first run,” Hamlin said. “It definitely takes some pressure off knowing that, ‘Okay, if I don’t hold on to my spot, at least one of my teammates will win.’

“The team will still be successful,” Hamlin added. “Whether that’s me on top [or Emily], it was going to be one of us. It, for sure, makes it a lot more fun, even though we are still trying to lay it all on the track.”

How about holding on to the top two spots for the Americans? Hamlin threw down the fastest women’s time of the day with a 44.608 second run, solidifying her spot atop the podium, while Sweeney, who was all smiles after her teammate crossed the finish line ahead of her, finished in second.

Despite having her best weekend of the circuit to date, Hamlin, who hasn’t always had the best success in Park City, couldn’t help but be elated for her teammate in second.

“I’m pretty happy,” Hamlin said. “That was exciting to see that pay off for [Sweeney] and get her on a good streak going into the second half. It was just an overall good day.”

To sweeten the pot, Hamlin and Sweeney came back later that afternoon to take the top two spots in the BMW Sprint World Cup, also held at UOP. Hamlin was the only women’s athlete to break 33 seconds by finishing in 32.881.

After not earning any medals on Friday, the United States Luge team finished with five medal performances — four from Hamlin and Sweeney alone — on Saturday. The other U.S. medal came from the duo of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman after they finished in third place of the Men’s Sprint race.

“The girls really picked up our slack,” American Tucker West said. “I think that just really shows how well rounded our team is. Throughout this first half, all three of our disciplines have gotten a medal, which is pretty unprecedented. … That really just shows the strength of our team, the depth of our team.”

Luge athletes got a little bit of everything in terms of weather during their week stay for the fourth stop of the circuit at UOP. From beautiful, clear skies during training runs throughout the week to frigid temperatures and blowing snow on Friday that led to the cancellation of the men’s first heat, the setting at Utah Olympic Park covered all ends of the weather spectrum.

The changing conditions can certainly have an effect on the athletes and how things shake out, but for the most part, American athlete Tucker West believes the athletes handled the situation well.

“It is tough to switch weather conditions like that,” West said. “I think we saw every single weather condition we could possibly have that week throughout training and the race. That significantly changes the ice, how we drive, how we set up our sled.

“But, luckily, this is our home track, so we have a lot of training here in Park City. They did a great job with building the track and keeping the track in great condition.”

Heading into the Park City installment of the circuit, West was fresh off of back-to-back victories in Lake Placid and Whistler. Though he wasn’t about to make that three wins in a row with a fourth-place finish (1:32.681) in the Men’s Singles race at UOP, West was pleased with his performance at a track that he admittedly seems to produce slower times at.

“I was happy with my result,” West said. “Park City, for me, has always been a huge physical challenge. For some reason, even though it’s a home track, I’ve really struggled with it. I’ve never been able to go fast there. … I felt like this weekend I kind of not really conquered the track, but took a step towards getting better there.”

After this weekend’s performances, West is the top male American athlete in sixth place of the overall standings with 310 points, despite taking two zeroes in Winterberg earlier in the circuit due to overweight equipment.

On the Women’s side, Hamlin and Sweeney moved up significantly in the overall standings after the strong weekend, sitting in third and sixth places, respectively. For Hamlin, who sits just 56 points behind leader Tatjana Huefner of Germany, she hopes she can carry this momentum into the second half of the circuit and hopefully take over the top spot.

“I’m really optimistic for the rest of the season,” Hamlin said. “I’m comfortable on my sled, that’s such a huge factor. … I just have to stay true to what I want to do and just remember how I went fast in Park City and hopefully it’ll carry over.”

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