AP NEWS

Geisenberger wins, Sweeney gets bronze for US at worlds

January 26, 2019
Toni Eggert, left and Sascha Benecken from Germany in action during the men's luge World Championships in Winterberg, Germany, Saturday, Jan.26, 2019. (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)
Toni Eggert, left and Sascha Benecken from Germany in action during the men's luge World Championships in Winterberg, Germany, Saturday, Jan.26, 2019. (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)

Natalie Geisenberger of Germany stands alone, now a winner of more world championship gold medals than any other woman in luge history.

And Emily Sweeney of the U.S. was standing alongside her on the medal podium.

Given the agony of what Sweeney went through about a year ago, that was no small feat.

Geisenberger won her fourth women’s luge gold medal on Saturday in Winterberg, Germany — her ninth world championship overall when adding team events and sprint races, one more than fellow German Tatjana Huefner for the most in women’s luge. Julia Taubitz of Germany won silver, and Sweeney won bronze less than a year after she fractured her neck and spine in a horrifying crash at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

“It was really a lot of fun today,” said Geisenberger, an Olympic gold medalist as well in 2014 and 2018.

Sweeney felt exactly the same way. When she came back off the injury, she decided to start really aiming at her sport’s biggest prizes — medals at the Olympics, and medals at the world championships. She announced that she’s recovered with a World Cup medal earlier this season, and Saturday was another breakthrough.

“To actually have one is crazy,” Sweeney said. “I’m quite happy with that.”

Also for the U.S. in the women’s race, Summer Britcher was fifth. Britcher was third after the first heat, one spot ahead of Sweeney.

Sweeney became the 13th USA Luge athlete to win a medal at worlds. The doubles team of Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin combined to win nine, Erin Hamlin won four, Tony Benshoof claimed three, Ashley Walden won two as did the doubles team of Chris Thorpe and Gordy Sheer — while Becky Wilczak, Wendel Suckow, Tucker West and the doubles sled of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman all have one.

Now, so does Sweeney.

“Time makes things better,” Sweeney said. “Time and a lot of work.”

The 25-year-old is a sergeant in the U.S. Army when she’s not wearing red, white and blue racing suits and throwing herself down icy mountainside chutes. She spent most of this past offseason recovering from the physical injuries and mental woes that came when she got badly hurt at the Olympics. Much of the summer was spent wondering if she’d ever be the same slider again or how much she even wanted to continue after finally realizing her long quest to be an Olympian

Turns out, she might be better than ever.

“All the cliches in sport are true,” Sweeney said. “In sport, all the cliches are cliches for a reason. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s true. I’ve had a really challenging year, and I think I’m better for it.”

Also Saturday, Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the world doubles title, topping compatriots Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt and Austria’s Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller. For the U.S., Terdiman and Chris Mazdzer were 11th.

The world championships end Sunday with the men’s race, and the team relay.

Sweeney will be part of the relay, along with the Mazdzer-Terdiman team and the U.S. men’s slider with the fastest heat on Sunday. Sweeney said the Americans will be ready for another medal shot.

“So 10, 11 months ago, I was pretty miserable,” Sweeney said. “Not going to lie. The difference from then to now, yes, it does seem unreal.”