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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season

Summer Britcher takes second in luge World Cup opener

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The wide-open World Cup women’s luge season started Saturday with the unusual sight of no German sliders in the top two and a massive shakeup in the standings between the two runs.

Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova came back from 13th place in the first run to win by 0.110 seconds ahead of U.S. slider Summer Britcher, who has been third in the last two World Cup seasons.

Ivanova shaved nearly a half-second off her first-run time, improving from 40.875 to 40.429. Britcher was more consistent — fourth in the first run (40.693) and eighth in the second (40.721).

First-run leader Lisa Schulte of Austria tumbled from first down to sixth. U.S. rookie Ashley Farquharson, fourth in last year’s world junior championships, was third in her first World Cup run but finished 25th in her second to take 15th overall.

Brittney Arndt, who made her World Cup debut last year, was 13th. World bronze medalist Emily Sweeney, who won the Nations Cup race Friday, had a rough first run to stand 27th before rallying to 24th overall.

German sliders have won the last 21 World Cup women’s titles. But the team is competing this year without Natalie Geisenberger, who has won the last two Olympic women’s gold medals and the last seven World Cups. Geisenberger is pregnant, as is teammate Dajana Eitberger. Five-time World Cup champion Tatjana Huefner has retired.

READ: Geisenberger and teammates out this season

On Saturday, two German sliders tied for third — World Cup runner-up Julia Taubitz and Jessica Tiebel.

The doubles race had a Polish pair, Wojciech Chmielewski and Jakub Kowalewski, in first place after the first run, but they struggled in the second and left a familiar set of German pairs atop the standings Toni Eggert and
Sascha Benecken first, just 0.009 seconds ahead of longtime rivals Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. The American sled of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman finished 17th.

Mazdzer, the Olympic silver medalist, will also compete in the men’s race on Sunday.

OlympicChannel.com will have live streaming of the men’s runs at 4 a.m. and 5:35 a.m. ET, then the team relay at 7:40 a.m. Highlights will be on NBCSN at 4:30 p.m. and the Olympic Channel at 5:30 p.m.

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Emily Sweeney posts fastest time in qualifier for luge World Cup opener

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World championship bronze medalist Emily Sweeney placed first in the Nations Cup luge race Friday in Innsbruck, Austria, qualifying with ease for the first World Cup event of the season.

Twelve women, including fellow American Summer Britcher, were seeded directly into the World Cup race. Sweeney, Brittney Arndt and Ashley Farquharson all qualified from the Nations Cup race. Britcher has finished third in the overall World Cup standings for two straight years and is a contender in a wide-open year with seven-time defending champion Natalie Geisenberger taking a year off while pregnant.

MORE: Geisenberg will not race in 2019-20

In the men’s competition, Jonny Gustafson and Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer finished third and fifth in the Nations Cup race to advance. Tucker West claimed the second-to-last qualifying spot to get all three U.S. sliders in Sunday’s World Cup race.

Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman qualified for the doubles competition, ensuring all eight U.S. sliders will see the weekend races.

OlympicChannel.com will have live streaming this weekend (all times ET):

  • Women: Saturday, 4:15 a.m. and 5:40 a.m.
  • Doubles: Saturday, 7:05 a.m. and 8:25 a.m.
  • Men: Sunday, 4 a.m. and 5:35 a.m.
  • Team relay: Sunday, 7:40 a.m.

Highlights will be on television at the following times:

  • Saturday: Olympic Channel, 5:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Olympic Channel, 5:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: NBCSN, 4:30 p.m.

Next weekend, the World Cup series heads to Lake Placid, N.Y.

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